Commuter omnibus operators plying highway routes are reportedly dropping off passengers just before approaching tollgates as a strategy to avoid paying high tollgate fees which were introduced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube during his mid-term budget review early this month.
Light motor vehicles now pay $10 up from $2, mini buses $15 from $3, buses $20 from $4, heavy vehicles $25 from $5 and haulage trucks $50 from $10.
NewsDay has learnt that commuter omnibuses that ply the Harare-Marondera-Wedza route via Chitungwiza are dropping off passengers before the tollgate and commuter omnibuses from Dema Growth Point and Wedza pick the travellers on the other side of the tollgate.
The strategy is also being used by operators on the Harare-Marondera route.
When NewsDay yesterday visited a tollgate at Chanakira village between Chitungwiza and Dema Growth Point, commuters were waiting for transport on both sides of the tollgate, while omnibuses were making U-turns a stone’s throw away from the tollgate.
“We have been dropped here. I was going to 10 Miles, but I was surprised when they told me that they were not passing through the tollgate and they asked us to disembark. Now we are waiting to be picked by another kombi which will take us to our destination,” Loice Hungwe said.
A vendor at the Chanakira village tollgate, Caroline Mutore said even pirate taxes popularly known as mushikashika were dropping off and picking up passengers before the tollgate.
It is also alleged that some operators were using dust roads to bypass the same tollgate at Chanakira as an alternative to dropping off passengers before it.
A commuter omnibus driver who plies the Harare-Marondera route, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they could not afford the new toll fees which threatened to push them out of business.
“$15 is a lot of money. For us to make profit, we will need to hike fares yet commuters do not have that money. We are also considering that the salaries of civil servants have remained static for some time. So, for us to remain in this business this is the only way out,” he said.
Another driver said it was difficult for them to cope with the high tollgate fees imposed on motorists by the government.
“Currently the fare to Harare-Marondera is around $18 varying with the operator, but if we are to drop off passengers before the tollgate the fare will be reduced to about $8 or even less (than that). Then another kombi will take those commuters from the other side of the tollgate to Marondera. That becomes affordable for commuters while also cheaper for us,” he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has been hiking prices for most of its services for the last month as the economy nosedives.