Transport operators will be forced to increase inter-city route fares due to Friday's shock increase in toll gate fees.

Those operators who were yet to hike the fare threatened to do so following the up to 100 percent toll fee increase.

The recent hike in toll fees has been sledged as an extra burden on the pockets of motorists and commuters who are already facing difficulties in meeting their daily needs.

Government has gazetted the Toll Roads (Regional Trunk Road Network) (Amendment) Regulations, 2014, through statutory instrument (SI) 106/ 2014, whose  primary purpose is to increase the toll fees by up to 100 percent.

Under the new regime, users of light private vehicles will now pay $2 up from $1. Users of haulage trucks will now pay $10, up from $5. These toll fees are effective from July 11.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has approached the High Court, arguing that the increase is unjustified, arbitrary, oppressive and punitive in the context of the tough economic environment.

They argue that no consultation was done with the motoring public before raising the fees, breaching  Section 3 of the Administrative Justice Act which requires that policies be reasonable and fair.

But the High Court has reserved ruling on the challenge, and in the meantime the toll fees have gone up.

Transport operators and bus drivers who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, said they had already hiked the fares as they were left with little choice but to increase the fares.

Minibuses plying the Shurugwi-Gweru route doubled fares to $2 from $1.

"What this means is that we will have to increase fares because it won't be economically viable to continue with the current fares," Zvikomborero Marima, a bus driver said.

"People are suffering and they don't have the money and how will they afford the new fares? This does not look good for our business."

Lloyd Shoko, a minibus owner which plies the Harare-Bulawayo route, said business was no longer viable following the toll fee hike.

"Business was bad before the toll fees were increased and now with this  increase, things have gone worse," Shoko said.

"We now fork $12 for toll gate fees for a trip to Bulawayo and there are a lot of police road blocks on the way. At the end of the day, we are working for nothing. We will have to look at the fares and see how we can price them so that we can make some profit."

Currently, a trip to Bulawayo from Harare costs $15 and transport operators plying that route were mulling an increase to between $17 and $18.

Other transport operators plying different routes said they are likely to increase their fares by $1 or $2 depending on the number of toll gates.

Previously, a trip from Harare to Guruve cost $6 for a traveller using a bus and $7 for kombis, while Masvingo-Harare journey is priced at $8.

The Harare to Mhondoro-Ngezi journey is currently pegged at $6, Harare to Buhera $6, Harare to Murambinda $7, Harare to Chimvuri $9 and Harare to Bindura $3 among other routes, and an increase in fares was imminent

Carlos Mutimbanyoka, a bus driver, said the toll fee increase was unjustified and needs to be reviewed.

"We were shocked to learn that toll gate fees had been increased," Mutimbanyoka said.

"Now with the toll fees going up, it means we will realise less money and this is not good for our business. I need to be paid my salary and the owner needs money, and how does the government expect us to survive if it keeps increasing toll gate fees? In any case, where is the toll gate money going because roads are not being rehabilitated?"

Christopher Chaima, a bus driver who plies the Harare-Kariba route, said transport operators will have to hike the fares.

"We are still charging $10 but as toll gates have been increased, we will be hiking our fares too," Chaima said.

"The $10 price was for the old toll gate fee and with the new fee, it is obvious that we will have to review our fares. The owner wants money and I too expect to be paid a salary so we must charge a fee that benefits everyone."

Another bus driver, Jeremiah Padya, tore into government saying the State was giving them a raw deal.

"When toll gates were introduced we were made to understand that the money generated will be used to improve our roads, but we have not seen that up to today," he said.

"We can't be paying for service that we are not receiving. The roads are bad and we constantly have to change tyres and springs. So the increase was totally uncalled for. If anything, the fares should have been reduced," Padya said.

The country has 22 tollgates and has mooted introducing more in urban areas to decongest cities, in particular Harare.

In developed nations, tollgate fees have helped decongest cities.

But in Zimbabwe, the introduction of tollgates has become a money-spinning venture for government Tollgates were introduced in 2009 and they are administered by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

However, in October last year, government announced that Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) had taken over the toll plazas, and revenue collections reportedly rose by almost 100 percent early this year. Statistics indicate that a total of $7 612 183 was collected between October and December 2013.

In October 2013, Zinara collected $2 330 943 compared to $1 613 941 in October 2012.

The latest hike is likely to see government doubling the amount of money it collects monthly.




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