The long drawn transport battle between the Masowe 3 Community against Matukeng Taxi Association (MTA) has ballooned after both parties took the matter to the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Natural Resource, Tourism and Land Cluster this week.
The affray that has taken more than two years is nowhere near ending, this after Masowe 3 community sought intervention from the portfolio committee tabling their grievances about the ill-treatment from MTA which hurdles the 4+1 taxis from ferrying passengers to and from Masowe 3.
The Committee Chairperson Kimetso Mathaba disclosed the details of the Masowe community conundrum at the expense of minibus drivers, citing instances where members of the community specified that people are dragged off the 4+1 taxis regardless of age, weather or even health condition.
The MTA as well as the Ministry of Transport were separately invited before the committee.
Contrary to the voices of the community, the association addressed a different version of their story that they bar the 4+1 taxis because of their stipulated law set by the traffic department which restricts the 4+1 taxis from travelling beyond the 10kilometers radius.
“The main concern here is the approach and bad handling of the matter. The community came on Monday and detailed how they are being ill-treated by the association which bars the 4=1 taxis from taking them to the village.
“It was harrowing when they narrated how one new mother who was coming from a maternity hospital was taken out of a 4+1 taxi on her way home by the MTA members.
“People are dragged out with their belongings; old people also experience the same treatment irrespective of weather be it rainy or stormy. They complain that they get to work late because they have to wait for minibus taxis coming from Matukeng which sometimes pass by their village fully loaded,” he said.
For his part, Matukeng Taxi Association Chairman, Motlatsi Setone indicated that they are in good working terms with the community. He said they approached the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (PLMC) for a solution then they headed to traffic department which resolved the matter.
“I must also clarify that we have a very good working relationship with Masowe community and it might only be few people who are not in a good working terms with us,” he said.
Setone indicated that their main concern is the 10km law that administers 4+1 taxis.
“We have blocked 4+1 taxis from taking passengers to Masowe because we serve that area.
“4+1 has its own laws that control it, it has to travel 10km radius which ends at the Thetsane road circle, Masowe 3 is far away from that circle.
“Our concern is solely on that piece of law which has been set by traffic and the 4+1 owners want to take for granted, and so are backed by the community,” Setone said.
Mathaba continued that the Ministry of Transport as well as Maseru City Council (MCC) was supposed to have salvaged the matter a long time as the two departments are directly involved.
“The entire transport is not clear because the place is in the urban area and the community deserves the benefits of urban transport which include 4+1 taxis.
“Problems like these will not stop happening when ministries work in silos. If the MCC and Traffic department are unable to meet and discuss problems like these so that the community get their deserved services then it poses a challenge,” he said.
He added that, “According to MCC the place is in town and the people in that area are supposed to get their urban benefits, but according to the traffic department, the 4+1 is supposed to travel only within a radius of 10km which is true. So everyone is pulling their own way.
According to Setone, the department selected a few minibus taxis to serve that area with Matukeng taxis because they pass by the village.
“This issue has been exhausted for a long time. We sought intervention from the Police but were left without solution until the department traffic suggested that there be only a few chosen taxis to serve that area on short term basis. We are currently sharing Masowe people with those selected taxis,” he said.
The Deputy Chairman of the association Tšeliso Lipholo said they were swayed by the mother body Maseru Region Taxis Operations to block the road.
“Masowe 3 community does a closed tour (special) which is also supposed to be within the stipulated 10km. So the idea of denying them a pass was motivated by the mother body MRTO because we are protecting our work and we have to do that on the road,” he said.
Deputy Secretary Libupua Letsie shared the same sentiments indicating that they once held meeting with the community people who suggested traffic department to be consulted for a remedy.
“This issue of Masowe community where they lament being sanctioned in transport by the taxi owners and subsequently leading to their late clocking at work has long been solved. We held meetings with the community and explained the laws governing the 4+1 movement. I remember because I still have the minutes of that meeting,” he said.
“They (community) suggested that we should tell the relevant ministry about this issue.
“We told the ministry about the problem and they solved the matter by giving short term permits for other minibus taxis to serve Masowe 3,” he said.
“It is a very demoralising to realise that this matter is continuing while we thought we have salvaged the problem,” he said.
“I realised that Masowe community wants 4+1 taxis, because when they are given minibus taxi transport by the ministry but they are complaining. They want transport of their choice (4+1). The 4+1 issue cannot succeed unless the law is changed,” he said.
The Ministry of Transport Legal Officer Lebusa Lebusa indicated that the ministry is hoping to extend the 4+1 taxis distance or salvage the problem by allowing only 4+1 taxis to trade in town while the minibus will trade at the rural areas.
He said the ministry is yet to sit before board and work on a permanent solution to the problem after realising that a solution to Masowe 3 problem might become a problem for other areas in the country.
“We have to discuss the solution with the board but we thought of extending the kilometres for 4+1 taxis to also accommodate people from that side (Masowe 3). It is not going to be easy because the minibus owners are going to fight them and crash their cars,” he said.
“We have to talk to the board first so that they approve the ideas that we have. The important thing is to also realise that the extension will have to include all the 4+1 taxis in the country even in places where there may be no issues of this nature,” he said, adding that everyone who applies for permits will be directed on which places to cover.
“We also have to engage the minibus owners because this industry is full of unruly people and they might not understand it and think that their jobs are being taken,” he said.
“We have also realised that urban people enjoy 4+1 taxis so our proposal is also to assign the minibus taxis to cover the rural areas and let the 4+1 to cover the city area,” he said. Asked whether they are going to renew the short term permits of the taxis chosen to serve Masowe 3 temporarily, he said they are not going to extend the permits but must find a long term solution to avoid brewing more chaos.