THE tollgate court interdict application by Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyers Association (ZHRLA) was simply a heap of a dog’s breakfast which the no-nonsense judge rightly dismissed in haste for lack of merit. The whole case was a fishing expedition bent to appease funding donors and demonstrate pseudo bravado that they can challenge President Mugabe’s government.
In his landmark judgment, Justice Mafusire said, “If the applicant argues that something is unreasonable, the obvious question is unreasonable compared to what? If something is disproportionate or punitive, in relation to what? Aren’t these mere abstract concepts that defy precision? Without some kind of empirical evidence, how does the court quantify unreasonableness?”
The Applicant deponent to this application was Selby Hwacha, a polished lawyer who had won several judgments that have elucidated and illuminated the jurisprudence of Zimbabwe. He learnt the hard way that courts frown to flirting applications.
ZINARA, a creature of statute, is mandated by law to, inter alia, collect road user charges and cause their disbursements to road authorities. Zimbabwe has 88,000km of roads with a paltry 20% surfaced or tarred. The construction, maintenance and repair of these roads is done by four authorities, namely the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural development 21%; District Development Fund (DDF) in conjunction with Rural District Councils 70%; Urban Councils 9.5%.
With only 20% of the roads tarred, it is a no brainer to say that the tarring program requires billions of dollars to reach 50%. In the absence of international financial support from the Paris Club or the Bretton Wood institutions, several domestic sources of funding must be established.
According to NationMaster, a massive central data source, Seychelles has 96% of its road network tarred, Politically troubled Iraq 84.3%, Island country of Jamaica 73.28%, Sanctions hit Cuba at 49%, Sudan 36.3% and war torn Afghanistan at 29.3%. It’s apparent that Zimbabwe needs to accelerate its road tarring projects in order to fare favorably with other countries.
It is an imperative that substantial foreign direct investment will favour destinations with tarred road network. It is incumbent upon any government to prioritise roads construction as an economic enabler that will spur agricultural and industrial growth.Advertisement
Tollgates fees were increased from USD1 to USD2 for private vehicles, USD3 to USD4 for Minibuses, USD3 to USD4 for buses, USD4 to USD5 for Heavy vehicles and USD5 to 10.00 for Haulage trucks. With the exception of private vehicles, the rest of the other categories transit for commercial purposes.
The increase of USD1.00 on private vehicle translates to about 0.6 liters of petrol or diesel. If the roads are tarred and resurfaced, the motorist will undoubtedly save money in fuel consumption, suspension repairs and tyres replacement. For minibuses and buses, the increment is insignificant. For a Mt Darwin bound 18-seater bus, paying an extra dollar is equivalent to extra 5 cents per passenger. ZHRLA thinks that the extra 5 cents is too much for Zimbabweans to bear. Really?
A bus plying the Johannesburg route will pay a total of USD12.00 at four tollgates to reach Beitbridge, 580 kilometers away. To reach Johannesburg, a distance of 543 kilometers, the same bus will pay a total of ZAR196.50 at six toll stations namely, Pumulani, Carousel, Kranskop, Nyl, Capricon and Baobab. Put simply, the bus will pay USD12.00 in Zimbabwe and USD20.00 in South Africa. In essence, it costs USD1 for 45.25 kilometers in toll fees in Zimbabwe and USD1 for 27.15km in South Africa in toll fees.
Given the current low industrial activity, most haulage trucks on the road are simply transiting to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, DRC, Malawi, and Mozambique and to other countries. The increment of USD5 per tollgate passed is insignificant compared to toll fees payable in these countries. It must be noted that 91% of minibuses ply the intra city routes. Only 9% of the minibuses ply the City-to-City Trunk road network. This means that tollgates fees will not affect 99% of commuting public.
ZHRLA misfired in its application by seeking the court to sin against the principle of judicial difference. The court cannot, where due process of the law has been followed, overrule decision of the executive.
What we see is the entry of ZHLRA into the political arena using its prowess in the legal field. We see a replica of NCA, which after making several court applications challenging the state, transformed into a political party. It is no wonder why NCA filed its court application on the same subject on the day the ZHRLA was being heard.