Thousands of Maseru commuters face the prospect of having to walk to and from work on Tuesday after taxi owners threatened to ground their vehicles to force the government to act against illegal taxi operators who are allegedly threatening the viability of registered transport operators.
The transport operators say they are unhappy with the government’s failure to clamp down on pirate taxis despite their appeals for action dating to as far back as 2012.
They say the illegal taxi owners have grabbed a huge chunk of the market share despite that they do not pay any taxes to the Lesotho Revenue Authority.
In a recent interview with the Sunday Express, Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO) Association Chairperson and a taxi owner Mokete Jonase said they had resolved to ground their fleet of taxis for the whole day of Tuesday to force the government to heed their appeals to stop the unlicensed operators from stealing their business.
“We are going to park our taxis for the whole day on Tuesday to see if the government will act on our grievances,” Mr Jonase said.
“A large number of the population use taxis every day to go to work and do other errands. This means that if we park our vehicles most of the commuters will not be able to do that (go to work and do other errands). So, we want to see who will be held accountable when the day’s business is interfered with.
“We will see if the police will keep those pirate taxis off the road and stop them from carrying passengers when we have parked our licensed vehicles. We will watch carefully how the authorities will respond to the issue.”
He threatened that if need be, they will ground their vehicles indefinitely until their grievances were addressed.
“We will continue with this plan (grounding of vehicles) indefinitely until we there has been a positive response from the authorities.
“We pay taxes when we renew our permits and this (taxi) business helps us cater for our families. Therefore, we cannot stand and watch other people take away our business.
“We are not going to fight anybody or ruin anyone’s vehicle. We just don’t want to see vehicles that are not licensed carrying any passengers on Tuesday,” Mr Jonase said.
Should the protest go ahead, then thousands of Maseru commuters who rely on the taxis will be stranded.
On his part, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Thabo Motoko, refused to comment saying he should have been consulted much earlier than yesterday by this publication.