THE HIGH COURT last week gave the government the nod to increase toll fees by 100% after some sections of society challenged the manner Transport minister Obert Mpofu went about the review.
Following the steep increase, small cars are now required to pay $2, up from $1, while haulage trucks will fork out $10, up from $5.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) had gone to court arguing that the government was in breach of Section 68 of the Constitution which demands that the State consults citizens on such issues.
However, the courts ruled that there was nothing amiss about the new charges. Mpofu still contends that the new fees are not even enough to fund the rehabilitation of the country’s deteriorating roads. He says the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration has been collecting an average of $40 million a year, which he says is not enough to tar a 20km stretch of road.
The reason motorists were against the new toll fees is that they believe the money they have to pay does not correspond with the state of roads in the country. Save for roads that are currently under rehabilitation through the Infralink project, most of the country’s roads are in a very poor state and have been blamed for the high rate of accidents.
The government has been collecting money from tollgates for a long time now and it is time the fees were justified through an improved road network. Mpofu would continue to face tough questions as long roads remain in poor state.
The ZLHR lawsuit was a reminder to the government that unilateralism does not work in a democracy. It was crucial for the ministry to have a buy-in from ordinary citizens before effecting such huge increases in toll fees.
The government has an obligation to provide Zimbabweans with information on how much it is collecting in toll fees on a regular basis to kill the suspicion that the money is not being handled properly.
Motorists are not necessarily opposed to paying toll fees, but are crying out for transparency.