By Farayi Machamire
The number of vehicles passing through tollgates has significantly declined, as motorists increasingly opt for “lift clubs” in an attempt to avoid toll fees, an operator with the road funds collection facilities said.
Joseph Mafanuke, country operations manager of Intertoll — a company contracted to manage nine of Zimbabwe’s 26 tollgates — made the revelations recently while giving oral evidence to Parliament’s Transport Portfolio Committee.
“…there has been a reduction in the number of vehicles passing through our tollgates per day,” Mafanuke said, adding that “the issue may not be how much (has gone down in revenue)” but the amount of traffic.
“We do yearly comparisons and we have noticed a reduction of traffic compared to the previous years. And we subscribe that to the challenges in the economy, particularly cash and therefore people start making lift clubs and so forth so that they use one vehicle and save,” he said.
Under the lift club concept, people travelling to the same destination opt to use one car rather than each one using their personal vehicle.
This not only saves on toll gate fees, but fuel costs also.
At the tollgates, private motorists are required to pay $2, haulage trucks $10, buses $4 and heavy vehicles $5.
From Harare to Bulawayo — Zimbabwe’s second largest city — a small vehicle is expected to pay $10, as the highway has five tollgates.
“We monitor our numbers every day, so if we see a reduction of 200
vehicles, we begin to worry,” Mafanuke said.
However, he could not be drawn into giving statistics.
“We collect on the whole route an average plus or minus $15 000 per day…like I said the decrease is in number of vehicles. You discover that the vehicle numbers may go down but the cash goes up because there will be higher class vehicles passing through,” Mafanuke said.
He also said they hoped the introduction of a cashless transacting system at tollgates will increase efficiency and reduce chances of fraud.
This comes as senior government officials are demanding special treatment at tollgates, insisting they are not comfortable with the current scenario of having their exemption certificates scanned before they pass through.
Instead, the officials want a Number Plate Recognition System (NPRS) which scans their vehicle’s plate numbers as they approach the tollgate and automatically lifts the boom gate to let them pass.
Bizarrely, they claim the current scenario is not only “time consuming”, but exposes them to “security threats”.
“The main reason why we were pushing for the NPRS is that we were having complains from politicians and senior government officials,” Mafanuke said.
“(They were bemoaning) that they stop at the plaza and they end up spending a lot of time and were not very comfortable security-wise with the current system of scanning exemption certificates.
“They just want to come and pass with very minimum delay,” he said, adding “that has been our main reason for pushing for the NPRS. If it comes it can work in conjunction with the current system we are introducing. The system we recommended is a take and go system.”
Intertoll is yet to be given the green light by Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) to commence the issuance of prepaid cards at tollgates under their ambit.
Univern Enterprises, which operates the other 17 tollgates, was in September licensed by Zinara to introduce prepaid tolling cards.
As at December 17, 2016, the electronic prepaid cards had been purchased by an estimated 6 000 customers while the prepaid amount to Zinara stood at $248 000.
Tollgates were introduced in August 2009 in a bid to raise funds to construct and maintain Zimbabwe’s worn out roads, but seven years later, the key infrastructure remains in a sorry state. Daily News