Govt refuses to stop toll hike

HARARE - Government yesterday implemented an increase in toll gate fees by up to 100 percent after the High Court reserved ruling in a legal challenge to the hike.

The new toll fees came into effect amid legal action by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

High Court judge Joseph Mafusire reserved ruling in the application, after the matter was heard in his chambers yesterday morning.

ZLHR claims the hike is unconstitutional and unjustified, while the government says the money is justified and needs to be used in road maintenance.

Government last week increased toll fees by up to 100 percent in a move that is likely to have ripple effects on transport fares.

Light motor vehicle toll fees went up by 100 percent to $2, while kombis and minibuses will fork out $3 up from $2. Buses will now pay $4 in tollgate fees up from $3. Heavy vehicles toll fees went up from $4 to $5.

Joshua Shekede, who appeared together with Lewis Uriri for ZLHR, said the toll fee hike was unreasonable and disproportionate.

The rights lawyers, who cited Obert Mpofu, the minister of Transport and Communication, and the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) as respondents, asked the court to stop government because “the increase in the toll fees mentioned was not done in consultation with the applicant and the general motoring public.”

However, Zinara lawyer Farai Mutamangira said the application was filed out of time, considering that the decision to increase the toll fees had already been gazetted.

“Once the executive has decided that it is in the public interest to increase toll fees, one who comes to court, then, challenging that executive decision must put up a very exceptional case,” Mutamangira said. “When statutory delegated legislative powers are exercised by executive authorities, there are only exceptional circumstances which can be interfered with and this is not the case.”

He said ZLHR failed to file a substantive review application and that the country’s toll fees were lower than those in the region.

The rights lawyers argued that the increase in toll fees was a contravention of the provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwean citizens and every other persons have a right to administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, and impartial, both substantively and procedurally,” reads part of the application.

The rights lawyers said the increase in toll fees was also done in contravention of Section 3 of the Administrative Justice Act, (Chapter 10:28), in terms of which Mpofu was supposed to act lawfully, reasonably and in a fair manner.

“Just as an illustration, a resident of Mazowe who drives to Harare for work on a daily basis will need under the current toll fee tariff a sum of $2 per day,” the lawyers argued.

“This means that a sum of $60 will be for toll fees a month.  This amount translates to $720 (annually).”

 

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