Transport minister Obert Mpofu recently hinted he was in talks with his Local Government counterpart Ignatius Chombo to rope in the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) in running the lucrative city parking business in Harare.
Not so long ago, Mpofu also proposed to introduce urban tollgates to raise money to rehabilitate urban roads and other infrastructure. In Zimbabwe it has already been proven that tollgate levies are among the most abused public funds. Revenue theft is rampant as it is comparatively easy to steal as has been shown by media stories.
And when Mpofu was presiding over the diamond mining industry the public never benefited until resources ran dry. It is understandable though why Mpofu would want urban parking fees under his ambit.
It is because the parking business in Harare especially has become a cash cow. Therefore it becomes suspicious for Mpofu to take charge of the portfolio at a time local authorities are reeling from a financial squeeze to deliver service to the residents.
It is a matter of fact that government has failed to cushion the local authorities through budget allocations leaving the parking business strategic for council to fund essential services among others.
Chombo must not allow Mpofu’s bullying on this critical matter. Mpofu must allow councils to meet their obligations. Clearly if Zinara is allowed to take over the parking business, Harare would lose in excess of $10 million potential business with foreign urban councils.
This is the money that could come Harare’s way to augment the scarce financial resources. While we may not agree with how Harare is using the city parking fees to rehabilitate the potholed city roads and improve service across the city, it is important that Zinara must also be transparent and accountable if the authority is to gain the public’s full confidence.
Zinara must first justify its mandate as it is one of the biggest collectors of public funds. While Zinara collects millions in tolling fees, the amount of money allocated to local authorities is a paltry sum.
For instance, how can Harare be allocated $1,3 million when the council needs $400 million to repair its vast road network and other deliverables? It is important that Mpofu thinks twice before bulldozing his Zinara grand plan.
Is it not ironic that the government continues to strip Harare of a lot of its investments, including the Harare Thermal Power Station that was given to Zesa, the transport system given to Zupco, and now the proposed city parking business to Zinara?
Are there no other ways of raising cash for the concerned government departments?
We believe that national resources must be equally shared, and not dispossess the residents because of which political party is holding fort at council or government levels.
Can Mpofu and Chombo be educated that civic issues are about the people and not about which party has control over what resources?
Zinara should not be used for “cheap politicking”. There is no need to burden the people by heavily taxing the motoring public. Government should use the money efficiently to reward citizens by investing in the road network, not ripping them off.
Using public funds as a political tool to curry favour with one section of the electorate while short-changing other areas is clear abuse of power, and this must be stopped.