In a notable policy shift, Traffic Commissioner ‘Mathabo Tšosane announced on Monday that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport has decided to expand the operational limits for 4+1 taxis.
This change, diverging from the 10-kilometre radius stipulated in the 1996 Road Transport Act, according to Tšosane will now enable 4+1 taxis to serve within urban and city council boundaries.
Explaining the rationale behind this decision, Tšosane said, “There were a number of challenges that were presented by the 10 kilometres radius including failure to provide passengers with safe and convenient transport hence the decision was reached.”
She affirmed that this adjustment complies with existing transport laws and policies, clarifying, “The law also provides that conditions provided on the permits issued for public transport can be changed by the Road Transport Board in accordance with prevailing conditions and therefore, the condition for 10 kilometres radius for 4+1 is no exception.”
Mokete Jonase, Chairman of the Lesotho Taxi Operators Association, while agreeing with the government’s decision, expressed a sense of exclusion from the decision-making process.
“We do not believe that the decision was made by the board as it was announced. This will not be the first decision imposed on the sector, that is why we plan to meet with taxi owners to discuss this matter and come up with a way forward,” he conveyed, revealing the lack of association representation in board meetings due to unpaid participation.
On a positive note, Letebele Melao, a 4+1 taxi driver from the Lithabaneng route, welcomed the ministry’s decision, anticipating benefits for both drivers and passengers.
“This means we will be making money while on the other hand passengers will enjoy the opportunity to choose which transport to use for their convenience when commuting to places out of town.”
Melao also hopes the new policy will ease the tensions between minibus and 4+1 taxi drivers.
He said the decision will lead to a better cooperation and offer a legal protection for 4+1 drivers operating at routes previously disputed.
Letlala Leseli, the Inspector for Lithabaneng route showed readiness to collaborate with 4+1 drivers, with the caveat of maintaining clear territorial boundaries.
He also urged the Traffic Police to address the issue of unlicensed vehicles popularly known as ‘pirates’, acknowledging the challenge with a critical remark, “Although I know this might be difficult for the police to get rid of ‘pirates’ because they own them. They are the source of the problem and we need protection from them if we were to see fruitful harmony on the road.”
Fusi Seboka from the Abia Taxi Association which controls the highly territorial and embattled Abia route when interviewed for a comment refused to remark, citing his association was “…still deliberating on this new development.”