via Mpofu under fire over proposal | The Financial Gazette 24 Oct 2013
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Obert Mpofu, has come under heavy fire over his proposal to introduce city tollgates.
Last month, Mpofu proposed the introduction of tollgates in towns and cities aimed at financing infrastructural development while reducing carbon emissions and decongesting urban areas.
Currently, light vehicles are charged US$1 at tollgates across the country.
The next class of vehicles, which includes kombis, pays US$2, US$3 for buses and US$4 for lorries.
Haulage trucks fork out US$5.
The tollgate density has been excessive on some of the country’s major roads.
For example, the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) is in the process of constructing three additional tolling points along the Plumtree-Mutare highway, bringing to nine the number of tolling points on the road.
It is, however, the idea of introducing tollgates in urban areas that has triggered intense debate.
Analysts argue that the move would undoubtedly affect not only the motorists, but traders and ordinary citizens through the hiking of transport costs, thus putting another strain on their pockets.
Dumisani Mpofu, a political analyst said: “The increase of tollgates is going to create problems for an already trapped economy and such a move might prove disastrous as it will make people suffer as we do not have any disposable income at the moment to accommodate such change.”
It might also result in long queues on roads leading in and out of cities or towns, thereby worsening congestion.
Critics say ZINARA must first prove to Zimbabweans that the money being collected from tollgates along major highways was being put to good use before attempting another experiment.
In the past, questions have been raised over the use of toll fees from the time the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) partnered with ZINARA in administering the tollgates.
Auditors said US$35 million in taxes meant for ZIMRA was not remitted.
Motorists believe ZINARA has not done much to improve the country’s major roads since the introduction of tollgates in 2009 to warrant the introduction of city tollgates.
Mpofu has, however, assured Zimbabweans that the money being collected at the tollgates would not be diverted to other use but would go towards roads rehabilitation.
“The increase of tollgates is a process; it won’t be done within a day,” he said.
“We are still consulting with city holders and stakeholders so that everyone benefits. Nice roads are built by the people who use them. The money that is being paid by motorists will be used for the roads. ZINARA will play a pivotal role in the repairing of the roads and the motorists have the right to hold the ministry accountable about how the money was used in the building of the roads.”
Eric Bloch, an economic analyst, said Zimbabweans were not ready for such change considering the fact that the majority of them are presently poverty-stricken.
“It’s okay in the long-term as it will help improve our roads,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has also condemned the move saying it would translate into an increase in transport fares for urban dwellers.