CONSUMERS and workers’ organisations have vowed to resist plans by government to introduce urban tollgates, saying this would burden the already suffering workers, as the cost will be passed on to ordinary people.
BY DALPHINE TAGWIREYI
Transport and Infrastructural Development minister, Obert Mpofu announced recently that government was considering the introduction of tollgates in urban centres to raise money to finance infrastructural development, decongest the centres and reduce carbon emissions.
The country’s largest labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) last week vowed to oppose the proposal.
ZCTU secretary-general, Japhet Moyo advised the transport ministry to abandon the move and concentrate on repairing roads that are in a dismal state.
He said the tollgates were not the best solution to decongest the urban areas as purported the ministry.
Moyo said, while the system may work in the developed world, it would not work in Zimbabwe, “except to increase the cost of transport for urban dwellers”.
The labour body accused the ministry’s planning department of sleeping on duty for several years.
“ZCTU vehemently opposes this move and believes this will greatly inconvenience not only the motoring public, but also workers, as this would further increase the cost of transport for the already hard-hit Zimbabweans,” said Moyo.
He added: “Already, a lot of money is being paid through licences and other charges and tollgates in urban areas would worsen the plight of people; ideally, the department should have been planning future roads, free-ways and by-ways in anticipation of increased traffic.”
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) also condemned the idea, adding that it was coming too soon when government has projects of a similar nature that were still to be completed.
The council said it was surprising that the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) was coming up with this proposal when it has barely completed work on various tollgates on the country’s major highways.
Motorists around the country are complaining that they have not enjoyed the benefits of the current tolling system, as the roads are still littered with pot-holes that damage their vehicles.
They suspect some of the money could be ending up in pockets of some corrupt government officials.
“Tollgates, everywhere they are stationed in the country, tend to stimulate congestion,” said CCZ in a statement. “Service is slow, causing traffic congestion to build around them. A plan then to introduce additional tollgates in urban areas when the inefficiencies prevalent with the existing tollgate system have not been dealt with, is a recipe for disaster, which will simply abet more congestion, particularly in major cities such as Harare.”
The CCZ suggested that government and Harare City Council should address the problem of commuter omnibuses in the central business district (CBD) before the urban tolling system can be introduced.
“The use of the conventional, mass bus system, similar to major metropolises around the world, is in our view, a more permanent solution towards decongesting the city,” said the CCZ.
Motorists in Harare expressed dismay at the planned introduction of urban tollgates, saying this would create congestion in and around the city.
One motorist, Memory Mavengere said the introduction of urban tollgates was “a non-starter”, as congestion has become a problem along major highways where tollgates were erected.
“Already, they are failing to decongest the CBD before the introduction, I am not sure if they will be able to curb congestion after the tollgates,” she said.
Said Emmanuel Kairezi: “Most [motorists] of them are low-income earners driving ex-Japanese vehicles and this will be a tough ride for them as they will be forced to part with their few hard-earned dollars. I believe it will be a good initiative after our economy has stabilised.”
Commuter omnibus driver plying the City/Marlborough route, Gift Kasambwa said the introduction of tollgates would result in fare hikes for the hard-pressed commuters.