A MAN has been shot dead in a violent clash between rival taxi operators over passengers on the Mohale’s Hoek- Quthing route. The deceased 34-year-old man was employed as a taxi inspector in Mohale’s Hoek.
Eyewitnesses said the deceased was part of a gang of taxi operators and inspectors who had attacked a Maseru-based taxi operator as he sought to negotiate with them to take over the responsibilities of ferrying some passengers from Mohale’s Hoek to Quthing.
The Maseru taxi owner had come from the capital with the passengers with the intention of going all the way to Quthing. But when he got to Mohale’s Hoek, he decided he no longer wanted to go further, some eyewitnesses said.
“The taxi owner then decided to negotiate with fellow taxi operators from Mohale’s Hoek to ferry the passengers to Quthing while he made a U-turn to Maseru,” an eyewitness said.
“He asked to the taxi operators to pay him for having driven the passengers as far as Mohale’s Hoek. At that point the now deceased and others began arguing with him and this was all to do with the long-standing rivalries between Maseru taxi operators and their counterparts from the other districts over customers. The now deceased and his colleagues began stabbing the Maseru operator who fled for dear life. As he fled, he drew his gun and fired some warning shots but they kept pursuing him. He fired more shots and killed the taxi inspector,” the eyewitness said.
Deputy police spokesperson Sub-Inspector ‘Mareabetsoe Mofoka confirmed the incident, saying the suspect, who resides in Ha Nelese, Maseru, had surrendered to the Mohale’s Hoek police.
“The suspect also handed over his pistol and he is in custody awaiting his court appearance,” Sub-Inspector Mofoka said.
Maseru Regional Taxi Operators (MRTO) spokesperson, Lebohang Moea, said the incident was sparked by the long-standing competition for transport routes and passengers among taxi operators from different districts. He said the escalating taxi wars had become “worrisome as they put the lives of passengers at risk”.
“This problem has been ongoing for over five years now. The Ministry of Transport has failed to provide clear guidance and route permits which clarify the areas of operations for various taxi operators,” Mr Moea said.
On her part, the transport ministry’s spokesperson, Ntumeleng Ntšekhe, said they had just received a document from the taxi owners with proposals on how to address their concerns. She said they were still studying the document and would soon call a meeting to discuss the proposals.
In the meantime, the police had to keep the peace among the rival taxi operators, she said.