Last Saturday Zimbabweans woke up to screaming headlines in local media announcing an increase in toll fees to which they reacted angrily, saying government was being heartless in an environment where disposable income is at the barest minimum.
Through a Statutory Instrument published in the Government Gazette last Friday, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Obert Mpofu announced a 100% increase in tollgate fees.
Light motor vehicles will pay US$2, up from US$1 while minibuses will pay US$3; heavy vehicles US$5 from US$4, and haulage trucks US$10, up from US$5.
This means that a person driving to and from Bulawayo now has to fork out US$16 in tollgate fees alone, in addition to spending more on the E15 foisted on poor motorists which burns faster and is in a way thus more expensive.
Motorists already have to contend with the fact that their cars now consume more fuel per kilometre.
So it does not make any sense to further burden already struggling Zimbabweans by increasing toll fees.
This is just another government decision which shows its insensitivity to the needs and challenges facing the people that are a direct result of its long record of economic mismanagement.
It is simply outrageous to expect people, as many as 90% of whom are unemployed, to fork out more for toll fees.
What makes this so sad is that these decisions are being made by a 28-member cabinet, including President Robert Mugabe and his deputy Joice Mujuru, whose utility bills, school fees, fuel, travel, domestic workers and rentals are paid for by government.
These same men and women drive past the tollgates without having to pay a cent.
It is disheartening to note that there are also plans to hike Zesa tariffs, introduce tollgates within the city and costly smart meters.
Where do they expect people who are already scrounging to put food on their table to get the money from?
Government is taking advantage of Zimbabweans’ docility, but it must be warned that anger is simmering and one day people will react, especially when these decisions are being made by people who appear detached from the majority’s daily struggle to make ends meet.
Many Zimbabweans breathed a sigh of relief when Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) challenged the increase. The lawyers described the increase as arbitrary, oppressive and punitive considering that motorists were already grappling under the old fees.
“The economy is illiquid. Where are the members of the public expected to get the money to fund these ambitious toll fees?” ZLHR asked.
Indeed why increase toll fees when there has not been any meaningful improvement on our roads from the money collected to date? Government ministers must get off their high horses and start crafting policies with the people at heart.