MASERU – The arrangement between the governments of Lesotho and South Africa to allow cross-border taxis to freely operate between their boarders failed to take off as planned last week amidst violent clashes between taxi operators from the two countries.
The arrangement was that cross-border taxis that were operating from the South African border side would have been allowed to cross into Lesotho.
This meant that South African cross-border taxis would have been allowed to drop and pick passengers in cities and towns like Maseru, Maputsoe and other border towns.
Basotho owned cross-border taxis that were operating on the South African side would have been required to start their trips from stations within Lesotho.
This would have meant that cross-border passengers would not need to cross the border in order to get taxis to destinations in South Africa.
The arrangement however failed to take off as the taxi operators from the two countries clashed.
Reports say some Basotho taxis were attacked in South Africa and ordered to stop ferrying passengers.
Some drivers were threatened with violence.
Operators in South Africa are said to have vowed to fight the new arrangement arguing that it will affect their viability.
The spokesperson of the Maseru Regional Transport Operators (MRTO) Lebohang Moea said South African operators were hostile to the arrangement.
He said the situation was chaotic.
“They said there was no proper planning for this operation. They fear that they would lose their business if they allow us to operate on the routes,” said Moea.
The other problem is that South Africa operators are refusing to cross into Lesotho because they say that their cars will not be covered by insurance, Moea said.
“They are saying that their vehicles are at risk because they are not covered by insurance once they cross into Lesotho.
“We need a renegotiation between the two countries. Maybe we need a neutral person from another country to help us solve this problem.”
The transport development coordinator in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Motsoaole Lesupi, said South African taxi operators were not co-operative.
“On Friday it was reported that there were groups of people who were protesting against the arrangement. Some Lesotho taxis were ordered to go back at the borders by the protesters,” Lesupi said.
“On the same day in Ficksburg a Mosotho was brutally beaten and his vehicle also damaged by South African taxi operators.”
Lesupi said some private vehicles were also reported to have been ordered to leave their passengers.
He said the protesters suspected that individual motorists were taking advantage of the confusion in the sector to ferry cross-border passengers.
A member of Ficksburg Taxi Association, Phumoli Mohlabane, denied the allegations of violence.
“We did not beat anybody , we only protested against the operation. We were supported by the community and the African National Congress,” Mohlabane said.
“So we have asked them (Basotho cross-border taxi operators) if they could allow us to take passengers from towns in Lesotho but they have refused. This is the only way the competition would be fair,” he said.
However the Maputsoe police said they did not have a report on the alleged violence against Basotho taxi operators in South Africa.