Pamela Shumba Bulawayo Bureau
Government is constructing 30 more tollgates on the country’s highways this year as it seeks to widen its revenue base and improve the country’s road network, a Cabinet minister said yesterday.
Ten of the tollgates are expected to be operational by the end of April, adding to the 24 already existing tollgates nationwide where light vehicles attract a charge of $2.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu yesterday said although the decision would attract inevitable anger from motorists, the ministry had no choice, but to come up with practical measures to improve the country’s road network.
“We’ve made a decision to introduce many more tollgates in various parts of the country. Our target is to have 30 more operational tollgates by the end of the year. We’ve since started working on the first 10, which should be set up by the end of the first quarter,” he said.
Mpofu was addressing delegates attending a road authorities planning and training workshop in Bulawayo.
“I know this decision is not popular with motorists, but it’s not a secret that our roads are deplorable and we’ve to come up with strategies to make travelling better for motorists,” he argued.
“Kombis are creating side roads on a daily basis, thereby damaging the broads further yet they don’t pay any levy.
“We’re therefore going to work with local authorities to make sure that we’ve more tollgates that will give us more money to have a sound road network in the country.”
Mpofu said the country was facing serious economic challenges whose impact could be lessened by a good road network. He said a sound road infrastructure can only be achieved through additional tollgates.
He added: “Rehabilitating the roads requires a lot of money which Treasury does not have.
“We’re left with no choice but to add more tollgates to increase our revenue and achieve our goals.
“In other countries such as South Africa, the road network is excellent because they have many tollgates, which generate adequate funds for road maintenance. For example, from Johannesburg to Pretoria, there are 10 tollgates and motorists pay more that $2 at each of them.”
He commended the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) management for improving accountability and transparency in the manner they use revenue collected from tollgates.
He urged road authorities to develop strategies of mobilising resources from alternative sources for road construction and maintenance.
“While Zinara is mandated to collect revenue and disburse to all road authorities, it’s important to note that the capital available for sharing is not always sufficient,” the minister went on.
“My ministry will continue to create an enabling environment for road authorities to carry out their mandate.”
He said a new disbursements committee had been appointed to ensure that money is disbursed to road authorities using objective criterion.
“We’re being quizzed and asked questions in Parliament and by the public about what Zinara is doing. I’m glad to say the situation has tremendously improved and the team is doing extremely well. Several projects in the country are being funded by Zinara.
“There is a public interest in what we do and the public has a right to know where the levies are going.”
The three-day workshop is being held under the theme “Development of Infrastructural Mechanisms as an Investment by Road Authorities in line with Zim-Asset”.
Representatives from road authorities, local authorities, Zinara and the Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga) are attending the workshop.