The informal transport continues to play a crucial role in employment and many people’s livelihoods as transportation is an essential for development and socio-economic improvement of communities and countries. The transport system in Lesotho has had visible imperfections before and after independence hence mobility and accessibility has been a problem in Lesotho. Part of the problem has been due to the country’s topography and poor fiscal capacity to construct roads on the landscape that is already hard to develop and/ or requires a lot of funding. Lesotho, like other developing countries has had a difficulty in infrastructure developments. Available road developments still do not serve the population at large. Therefore most part of the population is left disconnected and marginalised. For the reasons mentioned above, formal transportation that was provided by the government was the Lesotho National Bus Service and Lesotho Fright Bus Services (LFBS). These operated towards the foothills or mountainous areas on gravel roads which were not commercially viable. The buses had defined time schedules and routes while local transport was liberated and left in the hands of private operators. This was done to enable free competition and enable innovation.
Then, the country’s population increased and urbanisation become apparent as factories in Maseru and Leribe districts were established attracting people to towns to work at those factories. Mobility of people became an apparent need but available transport was inadequate. This saw an increase of informal transportation to bridge the mobility gap. However, it was still not enough as most of the informal passenger transport operated in towns and rural residents were still disconnected. At that moment many transport operators saw an opportunity to work in the informal transportation sector. This became possible as many Basotho were able to import cars from Japan and used them in the transportation sector to operate as ‘4+1 taxi’s. The model came as an alternative means of transportation because there was still an obvious need in the passenger’s mobility.
As 4+1 taxis increased, their operation has been faulted and criminalised for being chaotic by causing traffic jam in the country’s small towns as in causing accidents, being involved in criminal activities and reckless driving, to mention a few. However, little attention was paid on how these taxis have helped to improve the mobility of passengers especially the poor who use them on a daily basis to commute.
It is presented in this study that they certainly may be causing mayhem in the towns but they have been very beneficial to passenger mobility in Lesotho. The ‘4+1’ carry four people plus a driver; therefore, they fill in faster. They are timely and do not have fixed schedules; they navigate through traffic and settlements that sprawl out of town. Many passengers do not have to wait on long queues. They forge new routes in-to disconnected and marginalised areas to drive away competition. ‘4+1s have become very important to passenger’s mobility. Authorities need to ensure that they are registered and strictly enforce the law to make sure that they abide by the traffic laws.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2020.