THE untold suffering and stories that have left thousands maimed after being involved in road traffic accidents along the country’s major roads may never be written in the annals of this country.
Report by Bernard Mpofu
News of the newly-erected toll plaza at Ntabazinduna, along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway, was met with mixed feelings.
While the development could be seen as a step in the right direction in plugging revenue leakages, many questions remain unanswered as to how revenue generated from the booths may be used judging by historical events.
The toll plazas will now be solely manned by officials from the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) after the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV).
The new facility will also deal with bureaucracy, which has in the past been blamed for delaying the disbursements of funds to finance road infrastructure projects.
Currently, policemen brandishing AK47 assault rifles and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials are present at most toll gates with the latter collecting revenue on behalf of Zinara.
But with the new arrangement, Zinara will collect the funds, hopefully for disbursement in priority areas.
The Harare-Beitbridge Highway immediately comes to mind.
Experts say head-on collisions have cost a number of lives along the country’s busiest highway linking Zimbabwe to its major trading partner, South Africa.
For many years, the road has remained bumpy, narrow and the most dangerous in the country despite generating the highest toll fees.
The proximity of tollgates to some urban residential areas has in the past been a contentious issue.
A case in mind would be the unknown status of the Ruwa tollgate after residents were up in arms with authorities raising concerns that the site would create more holes in their pockets.
Across the border in South Africa, local lobby Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has had a dispute with authorities over the then proposed plans to apply an electronic tolling (e-Toll) process to Gauteng Freeways.
To avoid tension with residents, Zinara should consider consulting residents’ associations to ensure the success of the new tolling systems.
Following initial remarks by Zinara that a new toll structure may be announced, motorists continue to monitor the obtaining developments.
Should motorists brace for an increase in toll fees following the ongoing rolling out of new toll plazas across the country? Will our roads undergo immediate rehabilitation or continue to be a deathtrap for motorists?
Due to the shortage of coins on the market, the minimum increase that government can effect on the proposed toll fees could be $2 for light vehicles.
While it requires lines of credit for multilateral lenders to construct or rehabilitate the country’s rundown road infrastructure, concerns have been raised over the use of toll fees generated from major highways.
Noble the newly-commissioned plaza may be, questions have also been raised on the cost of the facility. For many, $1 million has somewhat been a figure many have found difficult to attach to the cost of the toll plazas.
This inturn could mean that at least $8 million could be required to build toll booths at a time the carnage on national roads remains high.
Notwithstanding such concerns, Finance minister Tendai Biti in his first quarter state of the economy report said support amounting to $3,8 million was availed to the transport sector towards rehabilitation of regional and trunk roads during the period under review.
Of this amount, $2,3 million went towards ongoing dualisation works on the Harare-Goromonzi turn-off road project, with the balance of $1,5 million channelled to other roads and bridge projects such as Hwedza, Harare-Masvingo and Manyame Bridge, among others.
Official figures show that the Development Bank of Southern Africa has to date disbursed over a quarter of the $206 million required to rehabilitate a major road artery spanning 801km from Plumtree through Harare to Mutare.
Toll fees constitute the third largest revenue generating source for Zinara after licence fees and fuel levy.
Of the $84 million collected by Zinara last year, toll fees raked in $17,8 million. Licence fees and fuel levy contributed $26,5 million and $23 million respectively.