THE government is concerned about the potentially harmful impacts of used vehicles whose market in the country has grown at an exponential rate since 2009.
This was said by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Thebe Mokoatle, who indicated that while the government appreciated the positive impact the importation of the cars particularly form Japan had made on lower income earners’ lives, it was however, mindful of the negative long-term impacts on the environment.
The market for used vehicles has given many low income earners with the opportunity to own vehicles, some of which cost as little as US$120 (about M1440) excluding shipping costs and tax.
These are either used for private or business.
There are an estimated 122 used car dealers in the country and in addition to these, some customers order vehicles directly from Japanese sellers via the internet or travel to the South African port city of Durban to purchase them.
While these vehicles have certainly improved the quality of life of many people, most are however, not prepared for the potential environmental and health dangers these vehicles present to the country.
Japan has strict motor vehicle inspections standards which make their vehicles worth very little after six years of use.
This is also coupled with strict environmental protection regulations that make vehicle disposal very expensive in Japan hence the need to export to other countries particularly those with less stringent environmental regulations.
Apart from environmental issues, there is also a concern that the used vehicles develop defects which contribute to accidents on Lesotho’s roads which have huge costs through loss of lives and loss of earnings for families.
It was against this background that Mr Mokoatle said that while the government was satisfied with the positive contribution of the used vehicles, it was however concerned about the potential harm.
“Lesotho does not have a car manufacturing industry and so we have a responsibility to ensure that our people have access to vehicles at affordable prices from car-producing countries,” Mr Mokoatle said.
“However, we have to ensure that the type of vehicles we bring into the country add economic value more than they bring harm.
“It is possible that indeed some of the second hand cars on our roads are actually causing more harm than good. That is why we are currently working on a plan that will help us to be able distinguish value-adding vehicles from the bad ones”.
Mr Mokoatle also revealed that his ministry has been directed by the government to carry out a detailed study on the second hand vehicles in the country which would inform the next course of action.
He said the plan would be done in collaboration with a number of affected ministries including those responsible for the environment, transport, water, finance and agriculture among others.
Mr Mokoatle also emphasised the importance of enforcement of motor vehicle trade laws to protect the industry, especially consumers.
Through the department of One Stop Business Facilitation Centre (OBFC), the Trade ministry recently resolved that issuance of trading licences and import permits would be done on strict conditions.
The ministry said they were tightening the regulations as a result of the continuous failure by such car dealers to comply with the Trading Enterprises Regulations, 1999 (as amended), which mandate car dealers to erect proper showrooms or shelters for vehicles among other requirements.
The new terms under which import permits will now be issued by the Ministry include;
For motor dealers:
- Applicants must only apply to the ministry when they have erected proper shelters or showrooms
- Inspection of the premises by the ministry
- Proof of previous sales record of stock
- Provision of credit letter or bank transfer for purchase of stock
- Proof of payment for previous stock if it was purchased on credit
For business people:
- A trader in this sector will be allowed only 5 vehicles in a year upon proof that he is a trader
- Only two vehicles will be allowed in a period of five years for an individual
- Only people 18 years and older will be issued permits
- Proof of bank transfer in the name of an individual importing a vehicle and a valid ID
“We have given motor dealers some time to comply with the Trading Enterprises Regulations provisions but many had not complied,” Mr Mokoatle said.
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