Taxi operators to spear-head protests

MASERU – The Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO) is today expected to lead a protest against poor service delivery by the government.

The taxi association also wants the government to approve a 150 percent hike in fares with immediate effect.

If approved, commuters would have to fork out M10 per local trip, up from the current M4.

Mokete Jonase, the chairman of MRTO, told a meeting on Tuesday which was called to finalise plans for the protest that they were ready to fight if the government ignored their call.

Only the proposed fares would enable them to remain viable after the increase in the price of fuel and other operational costs over the years, he said.

“We need taxi fares to be revised so that we remain viable. They (taxi fares) should be M10 or more per trip, not less than that.”

Disgruntled youths from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, the opposition and labour unions are expected to this morning’s march to State House and Parliament.

The protesters are expected to present a petition to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Parliament over the government’s “failure to provide decent services”.

The participation by taxi association is likely to cripple business since most workers rely on public transport to get to work.

Some workers could fail to report for duty.

If the government bows to the demands of taxi operators to hike fares this could hit hard ordinary people who live on less than one United States dollar a day.

The lowest paid factory worker earns about M960 a month.

The organisers of the march say they are irked by the government’s decision to freeze jobs in the public service this financial year.

“We decided to come together as different unions with different needs because the government has continued to turn a deaf ear to our problems,” Jonase said.

“Since 2004 authorities have not treated us well. Government always implements prices without considering our input and needs as taxi operators.

“In 2008 when the taxi fare was still M2.50 per trip, the government only approved a 30 lisente hike, saying most of our taxis were stolen. That was insulting,” he said.

Operational costs have continued to spiral, threatening the viability of the country’s taxi industry.

Jonase said they were disturbed by recent reports that the government was planning to introduce toll gates in the north and south of the country.

“We want them (government) to revise salaries for workers so that we can charge M10 taxi fares,” he said.

The national organiser of the Lesotho Clothing and Workers’ Union, Tšeole Ramaliehe, said they were joining the demonstration to press for the rights of factory workers.

A representative of youth organisations, Bokang Ramatšella, said they were calling for the transfer of the M50 million fund set up by government to develop youth projects from the finance ministry to the youth ministry.

“The money should have been given to the youth ministry to manage it, not the finance ministry which failed to administer funds meant for the block farming programme,” he said.

Ramatšella said there was need for an audit on the block farming funds.

A civil society representative, Phakiso Motaung, complained that government ministries were offering poor

He said during the state visit of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma last year the government promised that the construction of a dam in Poli-Hali would start in two months but up to now nothing had materialised.

The project was meant to create jobs for Basotho.

The protesters said they were also urging the government to push for more freedom of movement for people and goods between Lesotho and South Africa to boost local business.

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