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May 20, 2022

EDITOR

3 min read

We are collateral damage of our colonial history

We are collateral damage of our colonial history

Passengers at the Maseru Bridge

Story highlights

  • Cross border taxi business has cost Lesotho a lot
  • Lesotho’s abundant water comes at a hefty price to Basotho

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ONCE again, Lesotho emerged during the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) conference held in North West, South Africa, last week.

Talks about the never ending taxi conflict and violent incidents across our borders to the neighbour, highlighted the legacy our colonial masters have left for us when Lesotho refused to become part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

The point is that Lesotho commuters to South Africa have become a lucrative taxi and tourism business that operators have sometimes hindered entry points to maximise their profits. Cross border operators have met politicians for a resolution from both governments for hours on end to no avail.

Lesotho taxi owners have not had it easy over time, transporting their passengers to destinations within South Africa, a cross border impasse that has not only cost them forgone income but a loss of lives too.  

Whatever happened to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Free Trade Agreement and other agreements, the taxi conflicts between the two countries have more to do with colonial borders than economic activity.

As recent as the 1970s, there was free movement between the two countries but the legacy of colonialisation with the implementation of its border laws, reared its ugly head to make lives difficult.

It may not matter to individuals who do not use public transport but it affects all of us one way or the other. The standoff between operators means businesses in the bordering towns are losing tourism revenue. Private car owners are also inconvenienced as they are caught by the crossfire or manhandled on the roads for inspection over passengers they could be carrying.

No amount of regulations by the two governments seem to find a lasting solution to ending fights brought about by cross border taxis, which have become a curse to the economies and competitiveness of the two neighbours.

What will it take to stop the on-going conflict of the cross border passenger operations? Of course, it is a known fact that the police and civil servants from both governments have a vested interest in the taxi industry that it has brought conflicts of interest to enforce the cross border laws.

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Yet, the culprit is the South African side of the industry that hinders travel as operators that side claim ownership of the routes irrespective of where the travellers came from.

It is a unique problem of the two neighbouring countries – one rich and big, the other poor and small. For as long as the borders remain, the trade, passenger movement, safety and security will forever be compromised.

As far back as 2005, both operators have behaved like Cain and Abel of the Bible and the word “border” has manifested over and over again. No regime will bring to an end the violent behaviour of taxi operators between borders.   

Indeed, we are collateral damage of our colonial history. Often the enclave becomes a curse instead of a blessing. Although we cherish our gift of beautiful mountains and abundant waters, often they have come at an unbearable price.

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