Taxi fare hike looms

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Bereng Mpaki

The public should brace itself for a significant hike in public transport costs. This after the government averted a crippling nationwide taxi strike by agreeing to look into public transport operators’ demands for a 30 percent fare hike.

The strike had been scheduled to begin yesterday but a last-minute meeting between the Lesotho Taxi Operators’ Association (LTOA) and the government averted it.

If effected, the new fares’ structure will see commuters paying M12 for a taxi ride for a distance of up to 10 kilometres. Currently the fee is M8, 50. Passengers using the small taxis commonly known as 4+1 will have to pay M12, 50, up from the current M9.

LTOA chairperson, Mokete Jonase, this week said if approved, the new fares were expected to come into effect on 1 June 2022.

He said this was agreed in their talks with Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Transport Minister, Tšoeu Mokeretla. The government will consult economic experts on the likely impact of the proposed 30 percent fare hike before reporting back to taxi operators at the end of the month.

“We will no longer go ahead with our intended national strike following our positive dialogue with the prime minister and the Transport minister,” Mr Jonase said.

LTOA secretary general, Bataung Thulo, said they had agreed to give the government time to consult on their proposed fare hike.

“Following a meeting between the Road Transport Board (RTB) and taxi operators where we demanded a 30 percent fare hike, both parties have agreed to the proposed 30 percent hike.

“However, the board has asked for time to consult with economic experts on the likely impact of the proposed fare hike on different sectors of the public.

“The Transport ministry is already working with these experts on how the new fares will be implemented,” Mr Thulo said.

The taxi operators say the fare hike has been necessitated by an increase in the global prices of fuel and increases in the costs of motor spares among other operating expenses.

The government has also agreed to allow buses to resume carrying standing passengers, a practice that had been banned since 2020 through promulgation of the Public Health (Covid-19) regulations to curb the spread of the virus.

It has also agreed to extend the duration of vehicle fitness certificates from the current six months to one year as requested by the transport operators. This change will be effected on 1 May 2022.

The parties also agreed that a Covid-19 relief package should be introduced for taxi operators who were pushed out of business as a result of the pandemic.

The Transport and Finance ministries are expected to engage with taxi operators and come up with a plan to implement the package.

The taxi operators had initially planned to strike on 21 March 2022 but was temporarily called off to make way for negotiations.

In their 10 March 2022 letters to Mr Mokeretla and the RTB, the taxi operators had said they had done all they could to get an audience with the government but that had failed.

He said they were considering a strike because the government would only respond to a threat of industrial action.

“We know that the only time government listens to us is when we strike, and they have left us with no choice.

“Some of us have applied for routes since last year but to date the Traffic Department is yet to respond. We have also requested that taxis be tested for road fitness once a year instead of the current twice a year,” Mr Jonase said in March.

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