THE recently-appointed principal secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport responsible for the transport department, Thabo Motoko, is never one to let criticism get in the way of job delivery.
His only concern is to clean up the mess in the country’s ailing transport sector and if his output matches his determination, then the public should expect results by the end of September this year.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane raised eyebrows with his May 2019 decision to appoint a second principal secretary for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Critics argued that Lesotho is a very small country with an equally small budget and having a bloated government was not sustainable in the long run.
The premier in turn argued that the ministry’s efficiency could only be enhanced by splitting its functions and this necessitated the appointment of a second principal secretary who would supervise the department of transport.
The incumbent PS, Mothabathe Hlalele, would continue overseeing the public works department.
Aware of the storm of criticism that greeted his appointment as PS for transport, Mr Motoko says his only concern is to get on with the job and the public should expect to see the results by end of September this year.
Under the transport portfolio, Mr Motoko oversees the traffic, road safety, civil aviation and the Lesotho Freight Bus Service Corporation.
He is no under no illusions as to the enormity of the task that awaits him in the transport sector but he believes his experience at the Auditor General’s office where one of his duties was to audit the transport sector will come in handy.
“From 2003 until May this year, I worked in the Auditor General’s office as a performance auditor who would often be tasked to audit the transport department that I have now been entrusted to oversee,” Mr Motoko said.
“This means that I already knew the challenges of this department with one of the issues being that of driver’s licences and number plates. This is due to the outdated National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) which has been in use since 2001. It is often down and affects operations.
“We have looked across the border and engaged a company from the Gauteng province to upgrade our system and by end of September will be up and running. Very soon, we will outsource the production of number plates and we have already shortlisted local and South African companies for the tender.”
Mr Motoko said a new format will soon be introduced for the number plates to increase the syllables to seven from five. The first three will be letters of the alphabet which will be followed by three numerals and one letter of the alphabet indicating the district where the vehicle was registered.
“There will also be an option of personalised number plates such as those bearing the name of the car owner.
“We are also building a facility in Ha Foso, in the Berea district where people will go for their road tests. When the expansion is completed, all vehicle registration processes will be done there, from tax clearance, International Police clearance, road worthy testing, Criminal Investigation Department checks and vehicle registration.
“People will also be able to re-register at the post office building and I hope this new system will help reduce the congestion,” he said.
The 51-year-old Mr Motoko was born and bred in Machache in the small village of Mohlaka-Oa-Tuka in the outskirts of Maseru. He did his basic education at Nazareth Primary School from 1975 to 1981. He went to St Theresa’s Minor Seminary for his high school. Since the school was run by the Catholic Church, he was also training to be a priest. He however, eventually gave up the clergy training in 1985.
He completed his Form E the following year under the World University Service – a global development organisation that improves education, employment, and empowerment opportunities for youth, women and refugees.
In 1988, at 21, he left the country to work in South African mines in Welkom which at the time was called Free State Cyprus. In 1994 he ventured into the transport business by buying taxis which operated in Maseru and eventually quit mining.
With the urge to continue his education, he enrolled at the Institute of Extra Mura Studies (IEMS) in Maseru where he graduated with a diploma in business studies in 1999.
He later attained a Bachelor of Arts in Commerce degree in 2003 from the University of KwaZulu Natal after studying with the institution from 2000.
The degree enabled him to join the civil service as the performance auditor in the Auditor General’s (AG) office. While at the AG, he underwent several short courses which saw him become a facilitator in performance training under the Organisation of English-speaking African Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E).
AFROSAI-E is an autonomous, independent and non-political organisation established as a permanent institution with links to AFROSAI, INTOSAI and the United Nations.
Mr Motoko further told the Lesotho Times that his department considered all the stakeholders particularly taxi operators and commuters, in coming with the new road transport fees which were announced yesterday. The fees will be effected on 1 August 2018.
“The Road Transport Board has to review transport fares each year but that has not been happening for the last five years so the new fees are not a drastic change. We sat down and considered everybody involved and tried to come up with prices which would be fair to all stakeholders.”
According to the Transport Board, commuters have to pay M8 for a 4+1, M7,50 for a taxi, M6 for a sprinter and M5 for a bus.
He also mentioned that although he started with the traffic department, other sectors under the transport department were also going to undergo refurbishment.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to clean-up the transport department, for instance the road traffic problems. On average, a person dies daily due to road accidents so that will be the next issue we look into,” Mr Motoko said.