Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has protested the gazetted fees for the soon-to-be introduced tollgates, describing them as punitive and unacceptable to motorists in a limping economy.
The coalition has also demanded that the government must explain how it will use the money before it starts collecting toll fees, wondering how the government will account for the collections when it is already failing to account for the fuel levies that it collects on every litre.
According to the Government Notice, motorists will have to pay a minimum of K1,700 and a maximum of K50,000 to gain passage through the tollgates.
But HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence and his lieutenants, in a statement they have issued in reaction to the development, argue that a minimum, K1, 700 is on the higher side to a Malawian regular road user.
Trapence emphasizes that an ordinary Malawian road user is already over-taxed and overburdened by many State revenue responsibilities.
“Now the same motorist will be forced to pay a fee for merely driving their car on a national road between Blantyre and Lilongwe. Road-users in Malawi have to part with a series of taxes—from buying the car and registering it with the Motor Vehicle Directorate. Locally, car users are also charged with various permits apart from being taxed through fuel levies on every litre they use. In fact, Malawians would like government to come out clear and account for billions that go into State coffers through the road levies taxed on fuel,” reads the statement.
The coalition fears that the introduction of these fees will drive up the cost of public transportation as owners will have no choice, but to pass on these costs to the passengers.
It adds that Malawian roads are in very bad shape and asking people to pay that much as toll fees is daylight robbery.
“Car owners are already paying a heavy price for the dilapidated roads that they use on daily basis due to fast wear and tear of their cars. This is not withstanding the high rise of accidents that have taken many lives only due to state negligence to improve the conditions of roads in this country. Therefore, asking people to dig deeper in their pockets to cover for the negligence of the state is all but unacceptable,” charges HRDC.
“Government must at all times consult all relevant stakeholders before coming out with fees that have a potential to push inflation upwards,” it adds.
On the other hand, the coalition has demanded that government should tell Malawians first how much it has generated from fuel levy for the past decade and how the same has been used.
Trapence and his lieutenants argue that given Tonse Alliance government’s one-year record in failing to manage funds and failure to tackle corruption, the onus is on the government to show more accountability to regain the people’s trust.
“We therefore, call upon government to listen to the voice of reason and, in consultation with the various stakeholders that represent road-users and ordinary citizenry, revise these fees so that they are within reach of most Malawians. In so doing, Malawians will feel that they are contributing to national development instead of being punished for owning a car and using the road. Government must come out clear on how much money from the fuel levies have been collected and used for the past years,” they emphasize.
HRDC also says there must be a clear strategy on how to improve road infrastructure, especially key lifeline roads that are in bad shape at the moment.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :