South African Transport Minister Dipuo Peters is to convene a meeting with a delegation from Free State Province and other stakeholders to discuss the South Africa-Lesotho cross-border road transport impasse.

This comes following recent conflict and violent incidents between cross-border road transport taxi operators from Lesotho and Free State taxi operators at ports of entry in Free State Province.

From Jan 2 to 4 the cross-border road transport operators from Lesotho were hindered at points of entry into Free State as a result of a conflict with South African taxi operators based in Free State, the South African Transport Department said in a statement here over the weekend.

As a result, the Maseru border post was blocked, which made it difficult for people to move between the two countries. This was in direct contrast to the laws which govern the cross-border road transport between South Africa and neighbouring countries.”

According to preliminary investigations, legitimate cross-border operators were prevented from conducting cross-border operations from Lesotho into South Africa. The standoff between the two sets of taxi operators resulted in the border post being blocked on Jan 2, 3, and 4.

However, following intervention by various stakeholders and law enforcement authorities the border post was re-opened.

The temporary closure of the border post inconvenienced innocent commuters who relied on cross-border road transport to reach their expected destinations. Moreover, the failure to facilitate normal cross-border operations has a direct negative impact on commuters who depend on passenger transport to traverse between South Africa and neighbouring countries, the department said.

“Furthermore, it is important for the affected parties to keep in mind that the cross-border passenger operations between South Africa and the neighbouring countries are regulated by the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Memorandum of Understanding on Road Transportation and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Transport, Communications, and Meteorology.

The Transport Department added that it was aware of the on-going problems and conflicts in the South Africa-Lesotho corridor which adversely affected implementation of the SACU MoU and SADC Protocol.

It said the cross-border road transportation of passengers and goods was a vital input to key sectors of the economy and problems such as the conflict had a negative impact on the efficiency and competitiveness of South Africa’s economy, as well as growth in the SADC region.

The South African government was concerned about this and therefore, Peters had been meeting her Lesotho counterpart. These engagements led to the establishment of a national ministerial task team comprising officials from the Departments of Transport in both South Africa and Lesotho.

The task team had consulted various stakeholders in the taxi industry and made recommendations to resolve the situation. However, all the efforts did not bear fruit, because up until now, the cross-border passenger operations between South Africa and Lesotho were heavily affected by the on-going conflict.

We have a strong suspicion that some civil servants and especially law enforcement officials in Free State and the Kingdom of Lesotho, have an interest in the passenger transport industry. This is based on the noted laxity and selective manner with which they enforce transport-related laws in the province.

A meeting will be held with the Premier of Free State Province to discuss this impasse and find amicable solution to these challenges. We believe that this engagement will help address the challenges in Free State Province and curb this delinquency which has a potential of causing diplomatic tension between the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho, the statement said.