TRADITIONAL leaders are up in arms with the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) over payment of toll fees.
Zinara this year resolved to exempt only vehicles that were allocated to traditional leaders by Government from paying toll fees.
This means that the traditional leaders are now supposed to pay toll fees if using any other vehicles other than the ones they were allocated by Government.
In a letter to the Secretary for Local Government and Public Works Mr Zvinechimwe Churu, Zinara acting Chief Executive Engineer Moses Chigonyati noted that the change in arrangement was designed to curb abuse of exemptions by traditional leaders.
“According to Statutory Instrument 39 of 2009 which guides tolling operations in Zimbabwe, traditional chiefs are exempt from paying toll fees. Previous exemptions were by way of cards that were issued and would be presented to the cashier at the tollgate who will then process free passage,” said Eng Chigonyati.
He said the arrangement exempted the person from paying toll fees.
“We note that this arrangement exempted the person from paying toll fees instead of the vehicle. It created loopholes where any vehicle carrying a chief would request free passage. There are likely issues of abuse where the cards were given to undeserving people or relatives to use at tollgates,” said Eng Chigonyati.
He announced a shift in the arrangement.
“We advise that there has been a shift in policy as regards chiefs’ exemptions where Zinara will in 2020 exempt their allocated Government vehicles. We are therefore requesting a list of chiefs and their Government allocated vehicle registration numbers for exemption processing in the system,” added Eng Chigonyati.
He pleaded with the ministry to communicate the decisions to all traditional leaders across the country “to avoid inconveniences at our tollgates when vehicles not exempted are denied passage”.
But traditional leaders that were attending the National Council of Chiefs’ strategic planning workshop in Mutare last week felt belittled by Zinara.
“This is an insult,” said the council’s president Chief Fortune Charumbira.
The traditional leaders, he said want total exemption from toll fees.
“Some of our chiefs here have capacity to buy their own vehicles and does this mean that when they use such a vehicle and not the Government allocated one they are supposed to pay toll fees,” fumed Chief Charumbira.
Traditional leaders, historically, are considered the “owners” of the land and consider the Zinara notice as a violation of their rights.