TAXI operators have vowed to increase local transport fares tomorrow even without government approval.
The operators have proposed a 150 percent increase in local fares for public transport, which the Ministry of Transport has not approved, pending further negotiations.
Currently, commuters pay M6, 50 and the proposed 150 percent will increase the fare to M15, making Lesotho’s public transportation very expensive, compared to other countries in the Southern Africa region.
However, in the last meeting with the Minister of Transport and its board, the government proposed M8, 50 for commuter omnibuses and M9,50 for the 4+1 taxis. This was rejected by the taxi operators who then reduced their M15 proposal to a range of M9 and M10 for 4+1 taxis.
In the end, the two parties could not reach an agreement.
The Principal Secretary for Transport, Mr Thabo Motoko confirmed no agreement was reached with regards to the new fares and therefore no increases are expected tomorrow (Friday).
“In view of the situation, there is not going to be increases in public transport fares until an agreement has been reached,” Mr Motoko said, adding, he had no doubt that the situation would be resolved amicably based on the warm relations that exist between his ministry and the taxi operators.
“We have agreed on establishing a policy framework, which will help us to put our industry in good order, going forward,” he said.
However, taxi operators have cited high operational costs, adding the fares were last increased way back in 2012, despite increasing costs of car maintenance and fuel over the last five years.
The Deputy Chairperson of the North, South and Central region taxi operators, Mathe Khalane told the Lesotho Times that, in addition to escalating vehicle maintenance costs, they also wanted the fares in round figure forms to deal with problems of change.
In view of the disagreements with the Ministry of Transport, he said a taxi operators’ caucus will have to agree on interim fares in the absence of an agreement by end of day (Thursday).
“We know the economy of our country, and we are not trying to fight with Basotho. Our request for fares to be increased is based on the fact that times are hard, and we need to sustain our businesses,” Mr Khalane said.
He said the proposed M15 was a starting point for the negotiations and was never meant to be the actual fare.
“We are hopeful that we will come to an understanding before this Friday.”
The Consumers Protection Association (CPA) has criticized the proposed 150 percent increase saying it was both illegal and unjustified.