LOCAL Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere says government will forge ahead with plans to introduce urban toll gates, adding this was a “necessary evil” which will help restore Harare’s battered road infrastructure.
Kasukuwere told Senators this past week that Harare has lost nearly 80 percent of its road network through excessive use by vehicular traffic from the city’s satellite towns and recent heavy rains.
“I think urban tolling is a necessary evil. We have to fix the roads,” Kasukuwere told backbenchers during the upper house’s question and answer session.
“I think it is more expensive to repair broken tyre than to pay a dollar or 50 cents. We think if we can work hard for us to have better roads which we can maintain going forward; it will be in our best interest.”
The Zanu PF political commissar said government was convinced the introduction of toll fees along the country’s major highways past few years has helped refurbish roads linking cities and towns.
He said the same could be replicated within cities.
“We had discussions with Minister (Jorum, Transport) Gumbo and have seen how the tolls in this country have actually helped the maintenance of most of our major road networks, hence we have also analysed and said in the urban centres, perhaps three quarters of the vehicles are not even paying for using the roads.
“They are from Chitungwiza into the city, Norton into the city, Ruwa into the city and these areas there are no toll gates.
“If you look at our Harare network compounded by the flooding and rains, we have actually lost 80% of our road network, hence we need to find a way of working with Government under our disaster programme and the Minister of Transport as well as going forward, let us have a tolling system. So, it is indeed a fact that we have agreed on a policy to set up tolls in the city.”
Kasukuwere said while the transport minister was overally in charge of tolling, he would delegate the duty to local authorities when it comes to urban toll gates.
“Our local authorities must collect and maintain the road network,” Kasukuwere said.
“If it is not them, it is ZINARA, whoever at the point we complete this exercise is going to be charged with the responsibility; they must use the money to fix and mend out roads.”
The controversial idea of urban tolling was muted during Obert Mpofu’s tenure as transport minister some three years ago.
Citizens have, however, rejected the plan fearing this could be yet another avenue by government to generate revenue for abuse by those in positions of influence.
Through residents groups, citizens say government should first account for funds collected by ZINARA since the toll system was introduced few years ago before extending it to urban areas.
The Urban Councils’ Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) which is chaired by Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni to avoid misuse of the money.
“We don’t mind a cost-effective revenue collection set-up provided the end value is guaranteed, unlike now, where motorists are asking what their licence fees are doing for them,” said Manyenyeni while speaking to the media recently.