2 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Tollgate Fee Hike Plan Shocks Public

Photo: IRIN
Harare

MOTORISTS, public transport operators and passengers have expressed shock at plans to increase toll fees on major roads, saying this was not justified.

A snap survey around the country indicated that most motorists felt that Zinara should first account for how they had used the money they collected since the introduction of tollgates before they could increase the fees.

Jabulani Nkomo, a bus driver, who plies the Harare to Johannesburg route, said the roads were in a poor state and Zinara should be seen to be rehabilitating them before the toll fees were hiked.

"The roads are not being repaired and we do not know what happened with the money that was collected before," he said.

Nkomo, like most drivers, said once the toll fees were raised, operators would pass on the cost to passengers by increasing fares.

A kombi driver, Kelvin Nemhara said there had not been a marked improvement in road infrastructure since the introduction of tollgates and so there was no point in the move.

"If the roads were in a good state, then maybe an increase would be justified, but not much work has been done on them in a while," he argued.

Morris Nehwati, who drives regularly to Bulawayo, also felt that it would be unfair for the government to hike fees and instead should be concentrating on strengthening the revenue collection system.

"Tollgates are a service and should not be seen as a profit-making exercise. The US$1 we are paying is more than enough," he said.

A civil servant, who was waiting for transport along Masvingo road, said passengers were going to bear the brunt of the increase in fees and the government should consider that before it approved any move in toll fees.

Public transporters association spokesperson, Esau Mupfumi, decried the planned increase saying it would hurt transporters.

"We are still to recover from the Zimbabwe dollar era and most of us are operating at a loss," he said.

"The timing is not right, we are still operating at a loss and the inclusive government should hear our pleas."

Mupfumi said most public operators were reeling from high penalties that were charged on them by police on highways and an increase in toll fees would make things more difficult for them.

"The timing is not right, the economy is also not performing well and this will make things worse," he said.

The transport operator echoed sentiments from others, that if the roads had been resurfaced or rehabilitated in the past couple of years, then they would appreciate an increase in toll fees, but this was not the case.

Most people were also sceptical of the rise in toll fees, as their distribution has in the past been mired in controversy.

In 2010 there was an outcry over the distribution of toll revenue after a huge chunk of the money was given to President Robert Mugabe's district, Zvimba, Bindura and Shamva.

Legislators bemoaned that districts in the southern parts of the country were overlooked.

Parallels have also been drawn with the South African situation, where Gauteng residents protested heavily and took the government to court over the introduction of e-tolling, saying the move was not justified.

The introduction of e-tolling had to be suspended after the outcry.

Transport minister, Nicholas Goche is yet to gazette the new fees, but it is expected that they will be increased before December.

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