HARARE – Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere has insisted that urban tollgates “are a necessary evil”, vowing to go ahead with construction of the plazas, despite fierce resistance by motorists.
This comes as Transport minister Jorum Gumbo has distanced himself from the proposed urban tollgates, saying if they are to be put in place, they are the responsibility of Kasukuwere’s ministry.
“There is that thought that urban tolling should be done but it is not done by my ministry. If there should be urban tolling it is done by the ministry of Local Government. The ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development does not deal with what happens in municipalities,” Gumbo told Parliament early this month.
“Whatever happens in municipalities, the potholes that you see in the towns are not our responsibility. Our responsibilities are outside the towns….it is not my baby but that of the minister of Local Government,” he said.
But, Kasukuwere told parliamentarians last week that there is no going back on urban tollgates, saying plans are at an advanced stage to install the urban plazas soon.
“I think urban tolling is a necessary evil. We have to fix the roads,” he said.
“I think it is more expensive to repair a broken tyre than to pay a dollar or 0, 50 cents (toll fee). 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.”
Kasukuwere admitted that not enough had been done for the public to understand the motives behind urban tolling.
“What has been happening is that we have not articulated why we need urban tolls,” the Zanu PF political commissar said.
Motorists argue that while they are overburdened with road taxes and highway toll fees, road construction and rehabilitation remains a pipe-dream.
But Kasukuwere maintains the introduction of urban tollgates will resolve the issue of the dilapidated roads.
“We had discussions with…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,” he said.
“Secondly, when you set up these toll gates, who are going to be the authorities? The Transport minister is in charge, overall, of that policy which looks at the tolling, but because he can delegate that authority, we have discussed that that can be delegated to our local authorities.”
Kasukuwere added: “Our local authorities must collect and maintain the road network. If it is not them, if 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 roads.”