Public transport owners say they ready to do all it takes to push government into acceding to their desires to have their businesses thrive despite all the challenges facing them such as increasing fuel prices.
This they said through their association the Lesotho Taxi Operators Association (LTOA) in a spirited drive to have public transport services fares hiked by 30% by the first day of April.
Spokesperson of the association, Lebohang Moea told this publication that they remain and unmoved to their course until the government adheres to their grievances, threatening to launch a stay away if things remain the unresolved.
He said this follows their unfruitful meeting with the Minister of Transport Tšoeu Mokeretla along with the ministry’s Principal Secretary last Friday.
“It was an unfruitful meeting because nothing went our way; all that we sought for was not granted. We had asked for transport fairs hike, the implementation of the structure to regulate the business as well as Covid-19 reliefs,” he said.
The association’s fresh endeavour to increase the taxi fares comes after their last plea got approved five months back in October which resulted into the fares increased to M9.00 for the shortest trip in the smallest of public transport vehicles in sedan taxis.
He said their discussion ended on an agreement that Mokeretla will go to the Deputy Prime Minister, Mathibeli Mokhothu who was appointed by Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro to mediate the talks between the Ministry and taxi operators.
“We are just waiting to hear comments from ntate Mokhothu and will be left with no other options if the results are not favourable to our demands, but to embark on a strike or stay away should the police refuse to give them a permit to hold a peaceful protest.
“We will be left with no option but to stay at home with our transport,” he said.
He continued that they have teamed-up with the Coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE) to give more voice to their cause. COLEPE entails various sectors of persons working for the government who also want their salaries hiked by no less than 25% since there has not been any salary adjustments for them in the past three years.
The association said this after they declared a projected 30% taxi hike effective from April 1, 2022 which was triggered by the skyrocketing fuel prices which resultantly cause them a loss.
Meanwhile, approached for a comment, Ministry of Transport Public Relations Officer Ntumeleng Ntšekhe said the ministry could not comment on the matter due to on-going discussions between the ministry and taxi operators.
“Only when we are done with the talks that the Ministry will have a comment, that means it is when a solution has been reached,” she said.
Speaking with one of the transport commuters ‘Mapheello Sibare who works as a hairdresser, she said the taxi hike is going to affect her salon business as she uses transport every day to her salon work.
“If transport prices increase we are going to be affected and be forced to increase prices of our services. That is going to be a problem because if it happens that way, we are going to lose our customers.
“We understand taxi operators also have challenges but our plea is for with them when they request increase they should also think of other people who are going to be affected,” she said.