LOCAL transport operators and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport are headed for a showdown after the Petroleum Fund secretariat on Tuesday announced new prices that have given traction to calls for new taxi fares.
The secretariat said the new prices were influenced by the increase in shipping cost from neighbouring South Africa.
A statement released by the secretariat said petrol 93 now costs M11.65 an increase of M0.60 while the price of petrol 95 has been increased from M11.05 to M11.70.
Diesel 50 has been increased from M11.65 to M12.45 while diesel 500 ppm now costs M12.29 from the initial M11.49. The cost of paraffin has been increased by M0.70 to M8.75.
The secretariat’s chief executive officer, Mamotolo Thoahlane, said the transportation price hikes (free-on-board) have influenced the new petroleum prices.
“The increases have been necessitated by the increment of the free-on-board prices of these products which has resulted in these products experiencing unit slate under-recoveries,” Ms Thoahlane.
The public transport and logistics sector has bemoaned the increases saying that they will have a negative impact on their businesses.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times this week, Moving Logistics’ director, Phakiso Mokhatla, said the hike would force immediate price hikes for his company’s services.
“I normally increase the prices after three months but then the recent hike is way too much and has compelled me to review the prices immediately,” Mokhatla said.
On the other hand, local taxi operators who, since last year, have been grappling to effect new taxi fares, said the new prices have dealt a heavy blow on the already struggling industry.
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has since last year blocked the taxi operators from increasing the fares from M6 to M15 for a distance of less than 10km.
A recent meeting between the two parties was adjourned after they failed to agree on the way forward and the operators then vowed they would increase the fares with or without the support of the authorities from 1 June 2018.
However, the government has warned that the move would be illegal as the Traffic Board is the only body that is empowered to effect any increases.
One of the leaders of the taxi association, Mathe Khalane, said the new prices would compound their existing woes.
“I hope this fuel increment will soften the hearts of people at the ministry of public works to approve our M15 demand,” Khalane said.
“The last time government hiked taxi fares was in 2013 when taxis started charging M6 while 4+1 (four-seater taxis) charged M6.50. However, we have been affected by the petrol increments over these five years. The Lesotho Revenue Authority also wants us to pay a flat tax rate which is another blow for us.
“The ministry should know that we are going to charge M15 effective from 1 June even if they do not approve of it,” he said.
For his part, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport Principal Secretary, Mothabathe Hlalele, said the petrol hike was nothing new therefore it should not affect taxi fares.
“Fuel prices rise from time to time but then that does not mean fares have to change each time too. There is no way that the recent hike would be the determining factor for the M15 demand by taxi operators. There are several factors which are considered by all stakeholders when increasing fares,” Mr Hlalele said.