MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has berated the Maseru Regional Transport Operators (MRTO) for demanding a 100 percent hike on transport fares.
Mosisili told parliament on Friday that the operators’ demand was out of touch with reality and intended to “cause talks around the issue to fail”.
“I see the demand to hike transport fares by 100 percent as something tantamount to playing house (‘na ke bona nyollo ea 100 percent e le mantloane),” he said.
“It’s high time we let go of petty things that divide us. Maybe the intention behind the demand for the hike is to have talks fail, the result of which might be a strike.”
“The Road Transport Board is the relevant body to deal with issues pertaining to transport fares hikes, not me. Unless if there’s more to this than meets the eye,” he said.
Mosisili was responding to a host of demands made directly to him by hundreds of disgruntled petitioners during a protest last month.
MRTO along with Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions (Coletu), Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions (Lecodu), Lesotho Labour Congress (LLC), Lesotho Trade Unions Congress (LTUC), Voice of the Voiceless Association (Vova) and Concerned Youth Organisations took to the streets on May 5 to protest against poor service delivery by government.
They delivered a petition to Mosisili’s office.
Mosisili was out of the country on official business at the time.
The protesters gave the prime minister 14 days to respond to their grievances.
Mosisili told the parliament that he felt disrespected by the language the protestors had used in their petitions.
“In the petition, I am ordered to have responded within 14 days of receipt of the document. It’s not the way things are done. The public can’t use disrespectful language when addressing its prime minister,” Mosisili said.
“I do understand that we will have a difference of opinion here and there. But we also have to respect each other while doing it.”
He added, “It’s not right to decide on your own as to how soon the prime minister should respond to your queries.”
On the demand that there be a review on compensation for victims of road accidents, Mosisili said cabinet had already called for a review of the Road Fund and its administration.
He said the allegation by the protesters that the government was hiring cars from foreigners was unfounded.
“Cars which are now being rented by Avis are Basotho-owned. We only hire cars from foreigners if those Basotho have are not of the colour or design we need or not in a state to carry out duties required of them.”
MRTO had also complained about government’s plans to build toll-gates on all main roads throughout the country.
Mosisili said every country is run by revenue generated through from its people.
“You will agree with me that roads which are not constantly maintained are a hazard in that they destroy vehicles, cause unnecessary traffic (jams) as well as loss of lives.
“It is shocking that the very owners of public transport were complaining about efforts being made to protect their property,” the prime minister noted.
He assured MRTO that the Department of Traffic and Transport was already working on the issue of cross border challenges with South Africa and all stakeholders including transport owners were being engaged in the consultations.
“The department is in the process of presenting a document before all stakeholders, to be signed so that it starts working,” Mosisili said.
“MRTO is playing dumb because it knows very well the stage at which talks on this matter is.”
Mosisili also assured LCCI that government was in the process of withdrawing trading licences awarded to some foreigners in contravention of the country’s laws.
“A review of the rules and regulations has already begun to remedy this situation. I advise that those laws should also bar Basotho from renting out their businesses to foreigners.” Mosisili noted that the tourism ministry had already taken action against liquor traders who abuse their licences.
On the LCCI’s concerns over the ever-increasing prices of petrol, diesel and paraffin, Mosisili said the government had no control because “our country does not mine oil”.
The hikes were a result of several factors including the political instability in the Middle East as well as the weakening loti against the American dollar, he explained.
According to Mosisili, the government was trying to lessen the burden on consumers by subsidising fuel.
He also assured the LCCI that government was already working at improving services at border posts with South Africa “for a one-stop border”.
“This arrangement is being made so that when items cross from Lesotho to South Africa and vice versa, they are inspected only once instead of twice as is the case currently.”
On the delays over the issuing of passports Mosisili said the home affair ministry was working hard “to fast track the process”.
“Statistics show that between January and May this year 350 000 passports were issued. The ministry has not slowed down in issuing passports and the numbers are living proof,” he added.
On youth employment, the prime minister said this should be based on merit.
“People should have befitting qualifications, skills and other accomplishments including high performing standards etc,” Mosisili said.
“If employment is not being carried out according to these specifications, then I will be compelled to agree with the concerned youths that it’s wrong and that we should find a remedy.”
Mosisili allayed Vova’s worries regarding the apparent lack of proper sanitation, assuring the organisation that government was planning to improve the sewerage system for the benefit of more than 43 000 families in Maseru, Maputsoe, Teyateyaneng and Roma.
“In those very same villages, we will bring clean water to more than 72 000 families. I’m surprised that this issue is being raised just when we’re working hard on it,” Mosisili said.
In response MRTO spokesperson Mokete Jonase, told the Sunday Express that Mosisili “talked to parliament not us”.
“He’s being unfair to us. We’re yet to establish if that is the final answer to our grievances. “For now, I cannot say whether or not he has responded to us. We’re meeting on Monday (tomorrow) to discuss the speech,” Jonase said.
Vova’s national coordinator Matsi Lire said Mosisili had deliberately decided not to meet them face to face “even though that’s what we wanted”.
“He also took us by surprise by going to parliament without first notifying us that he would be responding to us in that fashion. He should learn to talk to us,” Lire said.
Even as he responded to each of our concerns, Lire said, he was talking “at us and not with us”.
Lire said she was also irked by Mosisili’s answer with regard to passport delivery.
“Does he really expect us to believe that from January to May a quarter of the nation was issued with passports?” Lire charged.
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