Government has, with immediate effect, hiked toll fees by 100 percent in some cases, with private motorists now required to pay US$2 up from US$1, while haulage trucks will pay US$10, up from US$5.
In a Statutory Instrument published in the Government Gazette yesterday, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Obert Mpofu made amendments to the Toll Roads (Regional Trunk Road Network) (Amendment) Regulations of 2010 to effect the increase.
The increase — the first since tollgates were introduced in 2009 — will see minibuses paying US$3, up from US$2. Buses will now be required to pay US$4, up from US$3, while heavy vehicles will pay us$5, up from US$4.
Public transport operators yesterday said the move could trigger an increase in bus fares.
Greater Harare Commuter Omnibus Operators leader Mr Ngoni Katsvairo said the increase had an effect on the cost of running public transport.
"We appeal to Government to exempt public service vehicles from paying toll fees as this will further increase the costs of operating passenger vehicles in an economic environment of already unsustainably low fares for which we are unable to pass on the costs to an already overburdened commuter. We also appeal for the continued rehabilitation of bad roads that are causing damage to vehicles, thereby increasing chances of accidents caused by defective tyres and suspension parts," he said.
Zimbabwe Rural Transport Organisation vice chairman Mr Regis Munenzwa said bus operators were already burdened with high operating costs, hence an increase in toll fees would compound their problems.
"We pay a lot of money to the Vehicle Inspection Department, the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration, councils and the police through fines, so additional costs will burden operators. Our appeal is that the money should be channelled towards the maintenance of roads because most of our roads are in a bad shape. Accidents are being caused by narrow roads and potholes which are damaging tyres," he said.
Mr Munenzwa said Government should in future consult other stakeholders before effecting tollgate fee increases.
Motorists said the US$2 for tollgates was not justified, considering that if one was travelling to Beitbridge where there are four toll gates, they would need to fork out US$16 to and from Harare.
A Harare motorist Mr Oliver Mangeya said Government should find other means of raising road funds instead of "milking" motorists.
"Government should find other means of raising money other than taking money from the already burdened citizens. Most of the country’s roads are in a bad shape and to charge US$2 for tollgates is unfair," he said.
Mpofu last month said Government was collecting US$40 million annually from tollgates, which he said was far too little to quicken the national road rehabilitation programme.
"We are not collecting much in terms of toll fees. Less than US$40 million is realised per year and the country needs far much more than that to make meaningful improvements to our road network, which is in a poor state. There is need for motorists to pay a little more money to enable the Government to raise funds to rehabilitate the roads and infrastructure," he said.
Mpofu claimed that Zimbabwe was charging the least toll fees in Southern Africa.