via Who wants urban toll gates? – The Sunday Mail Jun 21, 2015 by Edwin Mwase
The notion of introducing urban toll gates has greatly divided opinion among all the stakeholders involved.
Government is saying yes, the motorists are saying no, public transport operators are saying no and the commuters are saying no as well.
The Minister of Transport and Economic Development, Dr Obert Mpofu is arguing that the move is necessary.
“What we are saying is that those who use the roads should pay for their maintenance through toll fees. We do not want to tax our workers when people who use the roads will be the ones who will enjoy that comfort.
“Those who use the roads must pay for the upkeep of the roads,” he said.
However, those against the move insist that the ordinary tax payer that Government wants to protect will bear the brunt of the move as public transport operators will be forced to pass on the cost to them.
A commuter from Sunningdale, Mr Trevor Jatiel, said any further commuter omnibus fare increases will force him to walk to and from home.
“We are already finding it difficult to cope with the five rand to US $ 1 fares currently being charged by kombi operators for such short distances (the City-Sunningdale route),” he said.
“Remember we had resorted to forming walking clubs when things got tough around 2008. We can simply revert to that if fares are increased further because of the imminent introduction of urban toll gates.
“As commuters we understand where Government is coming from but this issue needs to be interrogated further because it can cause discomfort to the ordinary citizen.”
Motorists interviewed by The Sunday Mail Extra said they haven’t been fully appraised about the reasons necessitating the introduction of the urban toll gates.
“I think the authorities should take time to explain to us the motoring public.
“We are going to be directly affected by this whole initiative and therefore we deserve to know how the money raised is going to be used.
“We can’t be charged toll fees so that Government settles its wage bill,” said Mr Mathias Cofie.
Mr Muchineripi Gondo, a taxi driver, suggested the introduction of a monthly or annual road user fee for public transport operators.
“It becomes clear that the person who is going to suffer the consequences is the last one on the needs chain – the consumer.
“What we will just do is pass on the cost to the commuters,” he said.
Another motorist, Ms Rudo Mazhura said the proposed tolling did not make any sense as motorists were already paying parking fees.
“It defies logic as motorists are already incurring road maintenance fees in the CBD. They are already paying parking fees,’ she said.
Ms Mazhura said authorities should first account for all the funds generated by Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) at the national highway tollgates before introducing more toll gates.
A commuter omnibus driver plying the City-Mabvuku route, Mr Trevor Musorosekwa said from the commuter business perspective, the authorities should evenly distribute the tollgates, “so that no route retains an unfair advantage.”
Greater Harare Association for Commuter Omnibus Operators (GHACOO) chairperson Mr Ngoni Katsvairo urged Government to take a cue from the South African e- tolling concept where public transporters are exempted from paying urban toll fees.
“Our members make a lot of movements past these toll booths and their continued paying of toll fees will most probably have ripple effects on the commuters, who would have to cover up for the expenses incurred,” he said.
Passenger Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) coordinator Mr Tafadzwa Goliati hailed the initiative but urged Government to consider the country’s economic situation.
“It’s clear that most passengers are not in good financial positions and we were actually in a process of reaching out to the parent Ministry so that they can regulate the fares being paid by the passengers,” he said.
However, Minister Mpofu insists the introduction of urban toll gates will have benefits that far outweigh the negatives being raised.
“What has necessitated the move to introduce urban tollgates is the need to finance infrastructural development and decongest the city centre. When we eventually introduce these toll measures, those that need to be in town will be in town and those who need not be in town will avoid these facilities,” he said.
Minister Mpofu said the country cannot rely on the central fiscus to develop roads as Government is already burdened.
Experts argue that urban tolling is the panacea to road rehabilitation and upgrading, if properly managed.
Though most Zimbabweans are raising concern over the ever deteriorating roads in the country, Government has a lot of public awareness campaigning to do before the concept of urban tolling can be embraced.