Victory for taxi operators

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Motsamai Mokotjo

Police Minister Monyane Moleleki has responded to taxi-operators’ petition outlining several grievances they wanted him to address as a matter of urgency.

Members of the Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO), Mejametalane Transport Operators, Starring Committee, South and North Regions Taxi Associations and Bochabela Transport Operation Region petitioned Mr Moleleki, Finance Minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla and  Public Works and Transport Minister Tšoeu Mokeretla three weeks ago highlighting a number of concerns they wanted addressed within seven days.

The grievances ranged from alleged harassment of taxi drivers by the police and government’s decision to award a six-month fleet supply and maintenance contract to South African car-hire company Bidvest last month “at the expense of Basotho businesses”.

Two weeks ago, the operators walked out of a meeting called by Mr Mokeretla over the minister’s decision not to meet them in private first before inviting the media to respond to their grievances.

However, Mr Moleleki this week responded to the operators in writing.

Reads the minister’s response: “I closely studied your grievances concerning the police’s conduct, particularly on the removal of three officers who you singled out. I did as requested, and removed them. However, I feel they also deserve justice. Before we are too judgemental, I think it is only fair that we look into the issues you raised with great caution.

“Your first grievance relates to the unlawful arrest of taxi drivers against a High Court judgement. I would like to remind you that the duty of police officers is to apprehend, but the detention should fall under the ambits of the law. When it falls outside the law, it is not correct and the police will not be doing their job.”

However, Mr Moleleki informs the operators that the police use their judgment when making an arrest.

Mr Moleleki also explained why members of the Special Operations Unit (SOU) are now conducting traffic operations. The operators had complained that the SOU members harass them as they were not trained to conduct such operations.

But Mr Moleleki reminds the operators: “Gentlemen, let me point out that this police department’s (SOU) duty from its inception in 2002 is conducting and reinforcing special operations, serving as rapid response unit for emergencies, reinforcing ordinary operations.

“Conducting traffic operations is meant to help combat armed robberies because these are highly trained officers.”

Mr Moleleki also reassured the operators that his ministry was determined to fight corruption among its officers.

He added: “In conclusion I would like us to hold hands towards common good and be a joint force all the time.”

Contacted yesterday, MRTO Public Relations Officer Lebohang Moea told the Lesotho Times they held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the minister’s response.

“We are not satisfied with some of the answers so we asked for a meeting with the minister on Friday this week,” Mr Moea said.

“But most importantly, we are happy that the traffic officers we complained about were removed from their posts; they were transferred. As for the other issues we’ll need to discuss them further with the minister.”

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