Toll fees hike: The bigger picture

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s government decision to increase toll fees has been met with a huge public outcry.

And this has been backed by an urgent application lodged in the High Court by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who sought to bar government from increasing the toll fees on July 11.

The ZLHR argued the increase in toll fees mentioned was not done in consultation with the general motoring public, a violation of Section 68 of the constitution.

It also said the increase was done in contravention of Section 3 of the Administrative Justice Act, [Chapter 10:28].

The High Court has heard the matter and reserved judgment.

In the meantime, the contentious new toll fees are now operational amid swelling anger by motorists and the general public.

I find this public outcry so disconcerting.

Much of the anger and public outcry stem from the suspicion that Mugabe’s government is broke and wants to fund the civil servants’ salaries through the increase of toll fees.

This is balderdash because to suggest that powers that are invested in a particular minister through the constitution are intended to bolster a particular mission at the same time accepting that such powers exist, defies common reasoning.

The Toll Roads Act Chapter 13:13 empowers the minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development to make regulations in Section 6. It empowers the same minister to fix toll fees after consulting the minister of Finance.

I am sure this was done and cabinet approved it.

If that is the procedure then all the outcry is not premised on the legality of the minister’s decision, in this case, Obert Mpofu, to increase the toll fees.

Instead, it is based on the timing and the current obtaining economic environment, at least going by the mood on the ground.

The concerns are, there would be increased transport and travelling costs.

But there is a big irony here.

Why would motorists complain of the “steep” toll fees when they are intended to rehabilitate and maintain the same roads that they use?

Does it serve any purpose to stop the increase but still whine over damaged to cars, buses and lorries as a result of bad roads?

I would expect acceptance of the increase in toll fees but accompanied by a declaration by the public to hold the roads manager — Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara), to account for the money collected from tollgates.

Zinara functions are set out in Toll Roads Act Chapter Section 7 and as citizens, it is our duty, where government or parastatals abdicate, to demand accountability and transparency.

Zinara functions to collect road user charges, the allocation and disbursement of funds to road authorities, the auditing of road authorities in respect of funds disbursed to them by Zinara, the management of the road fund, the monitoring and implementation of road maintenance works.

If these things are not happening, Zinara would be in violation of the law and we have a right to approach the courts, but certainly not to militate against these functions by seeking to stop increase in toll fees!

It is our right to demand accountability because we fund these roads.

But to dismiss the increase with reasons predicated on not being consulted when, CURIOUSLY, the Toll Roads Act Chapter 13:13 does not demand the minister to consult, is clearly missing the point.

It is in the best interests of motorists to have good roads and this demands money.
By seeking to stop the increase, it means the money to rehabilitate and maintain roads must then come from Treasury.

There are no budget allocations for road works and maintenance.

What this then means is, apart from money realised from licence renewal, Zinara, will have to compete for funding with the likes of ministry of Health and Child Care to rehabilitate and maintain the roads.

That would be audacious — expecting to fund roads through Treasury.

We have seen the works on the major highways which involve a joint venture between Zinara and Group 5 (Infralink Private Limited).

Infralink is currently rehabilitating, widening, resurfacing, and resealing including the installation of carriageway markings and new road signs of the road from Plumtree — Bulawayo — Harare — Mutare and the construction of Toll Plazas.

This is certainly not Mickey Mouse stuff!

Comments (2)

Truly speaking not all the money realised from the Tollgates is targeted for the road rehabilitation but to pay the salaries of civil servants becoz if we look at when did these toll feee started and the pace at which the roads are maintained it doesn't match

robinsen - 16 July 2014

Instead of doing the noble thing,they go on to steal from innocent motorists. Is this how we can turn around our economy? Sorry guys,Suffer contineu.

nzvengamutsvairo - 16 July 2014

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