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Taxi operators push for fare hike

Bereng Mpaki

PUBLIC transport operators say they have no option but to push for a new fare hike due to the latest round of fuel price increments.
Taxi fares were increased by 10 percent in October 2021 but after the weekend hike in fuel prices by the Petroleum Fund, the public transport operators say unless they pass on the costs to the consumers, their already struggling, businesses will have to fold up.
On Friday, the Petroleum Fund CEO, Thato Mohasoa, announced that the price of petrol93 had been increased by M0, 95 to M17, 15 per litre while petrol95 had been increased by M0, 95 to M17, 30 per litre.
The price of diesel50 was increased by M1, 35 to M17, 65 per litre while that of illuminating paraffin increased by M1, 40 to M13, 10 per litre.
The latest fuel hikes are a continuation of the massive increments of petroleum products that have been implemented in the country over the past 12 months.
In just one year, the wholesale price of illuminating paraffin has risen from M7, 65 in February 2021 to M13, 10 per litre in February 2022.
This reflecting a staggering 71 percent increment.
In the same period, the price of petrol93 has increased from M12, 05 to M17, 15 per litre, reflecting a 42 percent increment.
The price of diesel50 rose from M12, 30 to M17, 65 per litre. This translates to a 43 percent increment in just a year.
Commenting on the latest fuel price hikes, Maseru Region Transport Operators’ (MRTO) spokesperson, Lebohang Moea, said the increments were a body blow to the entire public transport industry still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Besides the impact of Covid-19, the taxi industry had been hit hard by other challenges including high maintenance costs and competition from illegal transport operators, Mr Moea said.
He said things were so bad that some transport operators had resorted to taking their vehicles to work on weekly rotational shifts in order to mitigate the effects of the distressed economic situation.
“The latest fuel hike is a big blow to the public transport industry which is still trying to recover from the Covid-19 impact.
“Given the high operating costs of this business, the ideal transport fare for the small taxi (dubbed the 4+1 taxi) should be M18 from the current M9. But it will not be possible to charge that much because most people who rely on our taxis are lowly paid and therefore can’t afford to pay that much,” Mr Moea said.
He said transport operators from all the country’s 10 districts would soon meet to agree on proposed fare hikes.
“Last October’s transport fare hikes were not enough to cushion us. But with the latest fuel increments, things are even worse and we have no choice but meet and make recommendations to the Transport Board to review the transport fares,” he added.
A 4+1 taxi currently cost M9 while a 15-seater mini-bus charges M8, 50 per trip. Some bigger buses charge M5 for local routes.

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