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THE Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) is waiting for government approval to introduce urban tolling, which it says will raise funds for new roads in cities and major towns.

Urban tolling has been on the cards for some years, but critics say it will worsen congestion in the city centres.

"We are going to pursue the issue of urban tolling vigorously and we will model it to suit our local conditions," Zinara board chairman Albert Mugabe told a meeting of road authorities from around Africa in Victoria Falls.

"We have suggested the idea to the (Transport) minister Obert Mpofu and we are waiting for the green light. We can't wait to be funded by the fiscus and have to find ways of raising revenue for road development."

Mugabe said there was no budget yet for the project.

Zimbabwe introduced tollgates on its national highways in 2009 and Zinara said it collected about $15 million in the year to August 31 2014.

Critics of plans to extend the tolling to urban routes say it would add to the burden of an already over-taxed motoring public.

One fact for sure is that the 'minister of tollgates' Obert Mpofu will certainly approve the suggestion as he has already vowed to go ahead with the idea. In 2013 minister Obert Mpofu said the government will not go back on its planned urban tolling project despite protests by motorists, saying it had proved to be the only major source of money to fund road maintenance programmes.

"Encouraged by the growing interest from urban councils and towns on the urban tolling initiative and the warm co-operation we are receiving from our sister ministry of Local Government, my ministry is actively pursuing the introduction of urban road tolling as one major source of funding road transport infrastructural development in urban areas," Mpofu said just four months after being appointed Minister of Transport in 2013.

In addition to that, Mpofu has already vowed to add over 20 new toll gates in Zimbabwe and bring the total to 52. To prove that he is damn serious, he has already added two new tollgates, in Kwekwe and Broomley, between Marondera and Harare.

While former Minister of Transport, Nicholas Goche was okay with US$1 per private car on every toll gate for over four years, the first thing Mpofu did when he left Mines and Mining Development Ministry to become toe Transport Minister, he increased toll fees from $1 to $2 for private cars and from US$5 to $10 for haulage trucks, just to mention a few toll fee hikes.

One wonders whether the minister really has people's well being at heart or is only concerned about making sure the government milks all motorists to death! If the government, which is the national highest employer is struggling to pay its workers and has already vowed not to entertain any salary increments this year, where will then motorists get extra income to pay for toll gates from.

To prove that companies are struggling to make ends meet which in turns means workers are struggling to get paid, Minister Obert Mpofu's very own bank, The Allied Bank, last month hanged its operating boots and surrendered its banking licence to RBZ, thereby rendering over 200 employees jobless. The bank was seriously cash strapped and this is a clear sign that companies are struggling to remain afloat in Zimbabwe.

Another clear example is that of Minister Obert Mpofu's own media company, The Zimbabwe Mail, which reportedly has gone for several months without paying its workers their due salaries. The newspaper has even been evicted from its rented premises in the CBD and has reportedly since relocated to out of town, industrious area of Masasa where rentals are relatively cheaper. This again is a clear sign that even Mpofu's own companies are collapsing due to hask economic condition the country is facing.

Mpofu also owns a another equally troubled company, Trebo and Khays, which is reportedly failing to pay more than 100 guards it employs. The poor security guards have reportedly gone for more than six months without pay.

An employee at Trebo and Khays, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they last received their salaries in June last year and were struggling to make ends meet.

"We have been working for Mpofu within the security department, but the situation is very bad as it doesn't look like any efforts are being made (to pay us)," he said.

Mpofu also owns a transport company which is under the management of his son who did his tertiary education overseas. The transport company is also reportedly failing to make ends meet. It's performing equally dismally, just like all other Mpofu's companies. My Zimbabwe News is also reliably informed that Minister Mpofu and his son acquired a huge farm near Umguza where he built a very beautiful bottle store which is also running serious losses probably due to location. Had the bottle store been situated in an urban area where lots of customers pour in regularly maybe this would have been his only well performing company.

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