By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
06 June 2014
Transport Minister Obert Mpofu has announced a 100% toll fee increase, saying this will enable government to raise the funds it needs to improve the country’s roads.
Speaking to the state media this week, Mpofu said the government collects $40 million annually through tolls but needs more to rehabilitate the country’s road infrastructure.
Under the new fee structure expected soon, light vehicles will pay $2, people carriers (kombis) $4, haulage trucks and buses $10 – a 100% increase from $1, $2, and $5 respectively.
“There’s need for motorists to pay a little more money to enable the government to raise funds to rehabilitate the roads and infrastructure,” Mpofu told The Chronicle on Thursday.
The minister defended the increase which he said was nothing compared to what motorists in neighbouring countries such as South Africa were paying.
“Road networks in other countries are perfect due to the amount of toll fees that are charged there. We’ve to do the same,” Mpofu said without giving a figure of how much his ministry needs for this job.
A report in the Mpofu-owned Zimmail newspaper however suggested that the new higher fees are expected to help pay back the $207 million that the roads authority Zinara borrowed from the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Reacting to the fee increase commentators said it is unjustified, with some accusing the minister of “milking an already suffering population”.
“Ever since his appointment to the ministry, he has been making proposals that would result in the poor Zimbabweans digging deeper into their pockets.
“First he proposes urban tolling, now he proposes an increase in toll fees even though he doesn’t know how much the government requires for its road rehabilitation program,” one reader going by the name of Benjamin wrote.
Others doubted that the ministry will use the extra money collected to improve roads, saying the government has failed to do so using the fees it has been collecting since the introduction of country’s 22 tollgates in 2009.
Ex-Harare Mayor and MDC-T MP for Warren Park, Elias Mudzuri, said it was unfair that Zimbabweans were being heavily taxed for programmes that were not being implemented.
Mudzuri said most of the revenue collected through levies did not benefit service users but went into the pockets of a few politically connected officials as the ongoing corruption scandals have shown.
“Normal practice with tolling is that you improve the road first and then introduce the fees but not so in Zimbabwe. This is a clear sign that the minister’s schemes are unplanned and are being launched without consultation.
“The tollgate fees have been in place for several years now but apart from a few patches on the Harare-Bulawayo highway, there has been no meaningful work done using the fees collected,” the ex-Mayor said.
“Zimbabwean motorists are being overtaxed for using sub-standard roads, and so I do not understand why the toll fees are being doubled,” said Mudzuri, who also sits on the parliamentary thematic committee on transport.
Mudzuri slammed what he said was the transport minister’s flawed approach of “saying $40 million is not enough and therefore motorists have to pay more”.
“How do you ask people who have nothing to contribute more? Right now people are owed several months’ salaries because the economy is dysfunctional and yet the government keeps asking them for more.
“They should be looking at ways of aligning the country’s mineral resources with infrastructural development rather than to keep draining ordinary Zimbabweans of money they do not have,” Mudzuri added.