Proposed taxi fares most expensive in SADC

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Mohalenyane Phakela

LESOTHO will have the highest taxi fares in the Southern African region if the proposed fee of M15 is effected on 1 June this year.

Taxi operators have demanded a fare hike from the current M6, 50 to M15 and they have threatened to unilaterally effect the 150 percent increase if the Traffic Board does not accede to their demand.

The proposed hike has been criticised by the Consumers Protection Association (CPA) which said that, besides being illegal, there was no justification for such a huge increase.

The CPA said the taxi operators had no right to effect the hike without the approval of the Traffic Body which regulates the taxi industry. The CPA also said the proposed fare was “ridiculous” as most taxis did not meet the standards to warrant such an increase.

“The transport operators’ threats that the fares will be introduced with or without government approval are a clear indication that the industry is in the wrong hands,” CPA executive director, Nkareng Letsie, said.

“Public transportation is a regulated industry and no one has the powers to unilaterally introduce new fares without the approval of the Traffic Board.

“They claim that the cost of living has increased but this does not hold water because Lesotho is not experiencing hyperinflation which would justify a 150 percent hike.

“We wish to bring to the attention of everyone involved in this matter that the demands of operators are way beyond the 2018 public transport fares in Botswana. The new fares are P5 (M6.20) per trip and this makes the current fares in Lesotho comparable to the newly published fares in Botswana.

However, one of the leaders of the taxi associations, Mathe Khalane, said the fare hike was justified as there had been no fare increases for the past five years.

“The Traffic Board has failed us in that they have never increased taxi fares for the past five years whereas prices for everything else have been increased every year.

“The 150 percent price hike may sound ridiculous but then we are charging it to penalise the Traffic Board who have ignored the fact that we have been making losses. Circumstances have forced us to act this way,” Mr Khalane said adding they were however willing to negotiate a downward variation on the fare increase.

Mr Khalane’s comments were dismissed by the CPA which argued that transport operators want to pass on to commuters the losses they suffered due to their (transport operators’ inefficiencies).

“There are unnecessary barriers to entry and exit in public transportation. Commuters cannot finance anti-competitive tendencies such as very steep taxi association membership. After all the vehicles that ferry passengers are hardly ever roadworthy.

“They have cramped seats, broken windows and often driven by unlicensed personnel. All these factors make their vehicles a hunting ground for corrupt traffic police. The only reasonable justification for a 150% hike in this case would be to finance a corrupt industry. If government were to approve this request, it would be tantamount to legalising corruption.

“We once again appeal to government to resuscitate the Lesotho Freight Bus Service Corporation. Commuters need state-owned bus services that will provide affordable, efficient and reliable public transport. This will also be the cheapest way to address traffic congestion in major towns in Lesotho,” Mr Letsie said.

Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times has established that if implemented, Lesotho would have the highest taxi fare in the SADC region. Zambia charges K6 (M7.50) while Zimbabwe charges US$0, 50 (M6, 20).  Mozambique charges the equivalent of M6, 20 and Namibia the equivalent of M10.

In South Africa, commuters pay anything from M9 to M12 depending on the distance.

If the new fares are implemented this would mean that a commuter would have to fork out M840 per month for daily travel. The figure would double to M1680 if the commuter has to take two taxis to reach their destination. That monthly fee of M1680 is more than what many workers earn on a monthly basis. A factory worker reportedly earns an average of M1 238 per month.

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