THE government has over the past few weeks tried to reach out to taxi operators who are demanding the removal of the minister and the principal secretary.
Several taxi associations have wowed to embark on a national strike unless Public Works Minister Keketso Rantšo and her Principal Secretary Lebohang Phooko are fired.
Rantšo and Phooko are accused of failing to disband the Road Transport Board, issuing permits to wrong vehicles and refusing to review taxi fares.
All these are genuine concerns but they are not entirely new.
It has become common that once every year taxi operators will tussle with the government over fares.
There will be the usual threat of strikes before an agreement is reached.
But this time the list of the grievances from the taxi operators is longer.
Their expectations from the coalition government go beyond just the setting of better fares.
They are demanding the dismissal of two government officials.
While we believe the taxi operators have a democratic right, like everyone else, to make demands to the government we think this time they have gone too far.
Although the government has dignified their demands by seeking to negotiate with them we believe its time it draws a line in the sand.
The government must make it clear that it cannot and will not make decisions based on mobocracy.
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In fact, the dismissal of the two government officials should not have made it even to the agenda of the talks.
The taxi operators have no right dictating who the government should hire and fire.
Their calls for the minister and principal secretary to be fired have nothing to do with business.
Instead, they come across as a political move by a group of people who think they can use their clout to arm-twist the government to do their bidding.
The taxi operators have always fancied themselves as a strong political force in this country.
They have milked the public nature of their business to get what they want.
When they fail to have their way they resort to threats of strikes.
The previous government used to bow down to their pressure for fear that their strike would affect businesses.
Now the taxi operators seem to have decided that they can force their will on the new government.
They are now instructing the government to fire its officers simply because they do not like their decisions.
This is where the government should draw the line.
Their engagement with the government should be centred on issues rather than personalities.
By focusing on the two government officials the taxi associations are not only going beyond their mandate but are also sabotaging their cause by mixing up issues.
Their threat to take to the streets is also not justified.
But even if the associations go ahead with the strike the government must not give in to their preposterous demands.
Doing so would set a wrong precedence that will have ruinous effects on the government.
Today it is the taxi operators and tomorrow it will be factory workers kicking out a minister.
Other pressure groups will seek to use their political muscle to force government to fire a minister or official.
Democracy will effectively be replaced by mobocracy.
Cabinet decisions will be overturned on the streets.
That would be a recipe for chaos.
It is for that reason that the government should firmly tell them that their demands will not be entertained.
Taxi operators must desist from dragging irrelevant issues to the table.
As for their demand that the current board be fired, the minister must not entertain it.
That board was appointed for a set term and the taxi operators must live with it.
Instead of throwing tantrums and damaging relations the taxi operators must be reaching out to the minister, the principal secretary and the board.
It’s in their interest to do so.