Price hikes have become a recurrent feature in Zimbabwe. With the consistent prevalence of issues like foreign currency shortages, exchange rates movements and an overall lack of industrial production prices can only continue to go up. These past days have been riddled with price hikes across many sectors. We have seen fuel prices going up, data and voice call tariffs going up and exchange rates also. The latest segment to join the bandwagon was toll gate fees. Tollgate fees which remained static for a while were steeply hiked recently. This has led to some interesting developments some of which I’ll discuss herein.
Toll Gate Fees Reviewed Upwards
Almost a week ago the government hiked toll gates fees along with other tariff-related fees. The government issued a statutory instrument (SI) 171 of 2019. This has now become commonplace in Zimbabwe i.e. the drafting and releasing of numerous statutory instruments. Anyways, SI 171 of 2019 stipulates that the aforementioned fees were hiked in accordance to Section 6 of the Toll Roads Act i.e. Chapter 13:13. The fees were reviewed upwards as follows:
ZWL$2 which used to be paid for light motor vehicles has been raised to ZWL$10. A change from ZWL$3 to ZWL$15 was enacted for minibuses whilst buses now pay ZWL$20 up from ZWL$4. As for heavy vehicles, it’s now ZWL$25 (formerly ZWL$5). Haulage truck drivers now have to part ways with ZWL$50 up from ZWL$10.
Vehicle registration and licensing also had fees reviewed upwards. Change of ownership and duplicate registration book has been pegged at ZWL$75. To get a personalized number plate you must have ZWL$12 500 ready. Provisional drivers’ licenses now require payment of ZWL$100 (class 3 and 4) or ZWL$125 (class 1 and 2). If a foreign driver wants to apply for a license they’ll pay ZWL$500.
A Look At The New Toll Fees
It’s obvious that these toll fees hikes are already having a negative bearing on drivers. Take for instance a haulage truck driver travelling from Bulawayo to Harare and back. How much in toll gate fees must they set aside? There are 6 toll gates between Harare and Bulawayo therefore in total the driver will have to set aside ZWL$600 just for toll gate fees. A bus doing the same trip, to and fro, they will require a total ZWL$240. Consider that fuel prices keep going up and you’ll realize that transport operators end up forced to hike bus fares. Some of the early response after the toll gate fees hike showed how enraged people got. It was reported that across different parts of the country motorists had to block toll gates in protest. In some cases, motorists took matters into their own hands by forcing open the boom gates. This resulted in motorists passing through without paying anything.
How Some Transport Operators Have Responded
There are some transport operators, particularly kombi operators who have come up with ingenious ways to deal with these toll fees hikes. One notable example is the Marondera – Harare route. Transport operators have resorted to splitting the journey into two. What they’re doing is that a kombi ferries people from Harare to the toll gate (they pay ZWL$5). When they get to the toll gate they are dropped off and crossover past the toll gate on foot. Once on the other side they board another kombi and pay a further ZWL$5 to get to Marondera. On returning the same process is repeated; basically what that means is that these transport operators have avoided having to pay the ZWL$15 toll gate fee. Even on WhatsApp, there have been groups formed to disseminate information on how to avoid toll gates. It sounds very hilarious but people have noted escape routes to avoid toll gates.
Some examples are Harare to Chinhoyi (by using Lilifordia way you end near Darwindale). Kadoma to Harare it has been said you can use Empress loop road. Gweru to Mvuma you can use the Sino old road. When approaching Masvingo if you use the Zimuto Kapota road you’ll enter Masvingo town through 4 Brigade. Though these are some ways people are using to avoid toll gates I think in some cases it might not be solving anything. I say so because the distance covered when escaping and the state of the road of the route used might cost you more than just passing through the toll gate.
So that’s what’s happening in Zimbabwe regarding the recent toll gates fees hikes. True to Zimbabweans’ resiliency they always find ways to adapt to or circumvent any obstacle that comes their way.