Motorists feel the heat

HARARE - Cash-strapped Zimbabwean motorists risk abandoning their cars for public transport due to excessive user fees being charged by various institutions. 

A snap survey conducted by the Daily News on Sunday revealed that vehicle owners are paying an average of $20 more per month compared to last year as a result of increased road levies, toll gate fees and parking fees among a host of other rates.

Early this year the country introduced an additional road levy of two cents per litre on petrol and a cent per litre on diesel to raise funds to service the Development Bank of Southern Africa loan to rehabilitate the Plumtree-Mutare road.

In July, the Zanu PF-led government piled more pressure on the already burdened motorist by unilaterally hiking toll gate fees by 100 percent at a time when consumer spending power is quickly being eroded by an acute liquidity crisis and low aggregate demand in the economy.

Under the new toll fees, which came into effect July 11, motorists on private vehicles now pay $2, up from $1, while minibuses’ toll fees were hiked from $2 to $3 and buses from $3 to $4.

Heavy vehicles are now being charged $5, up from $4, while haulage truck drivers are now leaving $10 at the toll gates up from $5.

Civic Society Organisations (CSO) noted that considering the rampant unemployment and low income levels general, it was impossible for the new road fees to be sustainable.

“The motoring and commuting public’s interests were not factored or considered when reaching at this irresponsible unilateral decision,” said the CSO Forum adding that little regard was paid to the economic reality that a significant majority survive below the poverty datum line.

“Since this shall increase costs of services and materials especially for the informal sector, especially traders the problems shall have a domino effect to all aspects such as health care, education, housing, energy, water and sanitation,” said the Forum.

The motoring public are currently forking out $8 per day in parking fees — translating to approximately $200 per month.
CSO said government must find other ways of increasing revenue base rather than oppressing the hard-pressed motoring public.

“I don’t think it’s fair for me to pay $16 for a return trip to Bulawayo in toll gate fees up from $8 early this year when I haven’t received any salary increase for the past two years,” complained a Harare driver Tapiwa Mutendi.

Bus driver Zvikomborero Marima, 36 said government was not being sincere with the economic challenges being faced by millions of Zimbabweans

“I ply the Mutoko route and Mutoko Road is one of the worst roads in Zimbabwe and I always ask, where is the money going to?

“So far, the government has rehabilitated the Mutare and Bulawayo highways only, and yet the money from tollgates is enough to do all the highways.

“This raises a lot of suspicion and we are not happy about the increase,” he said.

“What this means is that we will have to increase fares because it won’t be economically viable to continue with the current fares. People are suffering and they don’t have the money. How will they afford the new fares? This does not look good for our business,” added Marima.

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