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New toll road system causes chaos
Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa
August 26, 2009

http://www.swradioafrica.com/news260809/newtoll260809.htm

The new road toll system introduced earlier this month, in an effort to get money into the Transport Ministry's empty coffers, is causing chaos and concerns are also being raised about potential corruption at the toll sites.

From the 8th August the new tolls were introduced, with charges ranging from US$1 to US$5 per vehicle, payable at several points across the country. Customs and excise agents, working from roadside tents, control the collection of money from drivers who are stopped at roadblocks set up by the police. The Minister of Transport, Nicholas Goche, said earlier this year that 90% of the toll fees would be given to the Ministry, which would in turn forward the money to the National Road Authority. The funds would then be forwarded to the Department of Roads, local authorities and the District Development Fund.

Goche said the remaining 10% would be given to the Ministry of Finance to cover administrative costs involved in the running of the tollgates. He said government vehicles would not be exempt from paying toll fees and that residents in areas surrounding the tollgates would be given special discs.

But the roadblocks and toll system are reportedly causing confusion amongst Zimbabweans. The initial toll week was also reportedly a shambles, with a local resident telling civic action support group Sokwanele that the toll collector ran out of receipts, money was not being logged and no change was available. There is therefore no way of knowing how much of the money collected at the tolls is making it to the Transport Ministry.

At the same time, each transaction reportedly took about twenty minutes to complete. Sokwanele reported this week that a local farmer, who sends a lorry filled with vegetables into Bulawayo three times a day, is set to spend more than US$600 a month on toll fees. His truck has to pass through the toll point between Bulawayo and Beitbridge, which has been set up before the town of Esigodini, forty km from Bulawayo. The farmer, already struggling to keep a steady income flowing in the agriculturally and economically devastated country, also said that his lorry driver will lose two hours a day or 44 hours a month by going through the lengthy toll procedure three times a day.

The situation is indicative of the backwards economic revival process underway in the country. While no one will argue that toll roads are the best way to pump money into the transport system, only a well managed, effective toll system would prevent the initiative from dissolving into more chaos. The government has had an estimated two years to prepare for the toll network, but still no solar panels for computers, no lighting at all during the night, no phones, no water is available and the toilet facilities are reportedly primitive for those manning the toll 'tents.'

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