Taxi op­er­a­tors threaten govt over Bid­vest

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Mot­samai Mokotjo

PUB­LIC trans­port op­er­a­tors are de­mand­ing the ter­mi­na­tion of a six-month con­tract gov­ern­ment has signed with South Africa’s Bid­vest Car Rental.

Un­der the deal, which came into ef­fect this month, Bid­vest is sup­ply­ing gov­ern­ment with ve­hi­cles and main­tain­ing the fleet.

How­ever, lo­cal taxi op­er­a­tors are not happy that the con­tract was given to a for­eign-owned com­pany and with­out go­ing to open ten­der.

Bid­vest re­placed Avis Fleet Le­sotho — a sub­sidiary of Seahlolo Trans­port Lo­gis­tics (Pty) Ltd — af­ter re­la­tions be­tween gov­ern­ment and the com­pany soured amid al­le­ga­tions and counter-ac­cu­sa­tions of fraud. The two had been in part­ner­ship since 2007.

How­ever, lo­cal pub­lic trans­port op­er­a­tors have given gov­ern­ment an ultimatum to either can­cel the con­tract by next week or face le­gal ac­tion.

Ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence in Maseru yes­ter­day, the spokesper­son of the op­er­a­tors, Lebo­hang Moea, said gov­ern­ment was not show­ing re­spect to lo­cal busi­nesses.

“We are speak­ing here not just as taxi op­er­a­tors, but con­cerned Ba­sotho who have the ca­pac­ity to sup­ply gov­ern­ment with minibuses, 4X4s and lux­ury ve­hi­cles.

“Dur­ing elec­tions, the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion hires our cars; Le­sotho re­cently hosted re­gional mu­nic­i­pal games and we also pro­vided our ve­hi­cles for the games with­out any prob­lem. So why can’t the gov­ern­ment give us the op­por­tu­nity to sup­ply it with ve­hi­cles and ser­vices the same way that Bid­vest and Avis have done?

“By Mon­day next week, if we don’t get an an­swer, we will ap­ply for a per­mit from the po­lice so that we can march on the streets of Maseru to demon­strate our anger about this is­sue. We will pe­ti­tion the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, ‘Mam­phono Khaketla, Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Works and Trans­port, Tšoeu Mok­eretla and Min­is­ter of Po­lice Monyane Moleleki and high­light our griev­ances con­cern­ing this Bid­vest deal.”

Mr Moea also said the op­er­a­tors would re­sort to the courts should the gov­ern­ment ig­nore their protest.

“We had a meet­ing with the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Works on Wed­nes­day last week con­cern­ing the same Bid­vest is­sue, but noth­ing came of it. That’s why we have re­sorted to this course of ac­tion be­cause we be­lieve we are not be­ing taken se­ri­ously.”

On his part, the chairperson of the North, Cen­tral and South Re­gions of Pub­lic Trans­port Op­er­a­tors, Mokete Jonase, ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of hir­ing cars owned by pri­vate South African cit­i­zens and not Bid­vest as the author­i­ties are claim­ing.

“Why would gov­ern­ment hire cars that are over 10 years old yet we have the same cars here in Le­sotho?

Why hire cars that are owned by in­di­vid­u­als when we are ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing sim­i­lar, if not bet­ter ve­hi­cles, here as Ba­sotho?

“We know of one South African ra­dio pre­sen­ter whose taxis have been hired by gov­ern­ment un­der the guise that they are Bid­vest ve­hi­cles. But we won’t al­low this to hap­pen,” Mr Jonase fumed.

Asked to com­ment on the op­er­a­tors’ al­le­ga­tions, gov­ern­ment spokesper­son and Communications Min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi said: “Gov­ern­ment urged taxi op­er­a­tors and other Ba­sotho to es­tab­lish com­pa­nies that would bid to man­age the gov­ern­ment fleet.

“But what’s painful is in­stead of heed­ing our ad­vice, they have de­cided to protest.

“You can’t just march; they need to come to us so that we talk and iron out is­sues.”

Lebo­hang Moea.

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