SA nabs cross-border taxi war suspects

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Crisis as scores are left stranded when Les and SA taxi drivers feud over passangers  at the Maseru Border Bridge in June 2014
Crisis as scores are left stranded when Les and SA taxi drivers feud over passangers at the Maseru Border Bridge in June 2014

‘Mantoetse Maama

THE South African authorities are finally bringing to book those behind the attacks against Lesotho taxi operators, Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO) Spokesperson Lebohang Moea has said.

According to Mr Moea, the suspects were denied bail after appearing in court recently, a sign that the South African government is finally responding to their pleas. Lesotho taxi operators had accused the South African government and police of being complicit in the standoff by doing nothing yet the violence would happen right before the police yet the perpetrators were not arrested.

“Three suspects who were arrested for damaging taxis and attacking drivers appeared before the Ladyband Magistrates’ Court on Monday and they were denied bail,” he said.

“They were remanded in custody and, to us as taxi operators, it is a good sign since they have been damaging our property without getting arrested.”

Basotho-owned cross-border taxis that were operating on the South African side were supposed to start their trips from stations within Lesotho. However, as soon as they had crossed the Maseru Bridge Border Gate, the operators were confronted by the Free State operators and stopped from proceeding into South Africa. The taxi drivers were ordered to take their passengers back to Lesotho and never carry passengers into South Africa again, lest they be punished for it.

Mr Moea added that since hiring a security company to protect them and their vehicles, Lesotho taxi operators had been able to ferry passengers from Maseru to different South African destinations.

“We have made a lot of progress because we are now able to cross into South Africa with passengers. The taxi turf war has so far dissipated unlike in the past when, every time we crossed the border, we were attacked,” he said.

“The South African government is in discussions with taxi associations in Gauteng for them to merge with the Free State taxi operators so that we can operate harmoniously.

“We are ready to work with them in peace. This is why when they were attacking and damaging our vehicles, we resorted to the court of law in order to resolve the matters in civil way.”

Once the negotiations are over, Mr Moea said, pedestrians would not need to cross the border on foot as they would board the public transport in Lesotho.

“This will also help with security issues and stop illegal migrants from entering both countries. I am not sure how long these negotiations will take, but our Transport ministry will also involve the Home Affairs ministry on this issue,” he said.

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