Harare, July 9, 2014 – The country’s leading defence group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Wednesday headed to court to start contesting the validity seeking an order to stop President Robert Mugabe’s cash strapped government from arbitrarily hiking toll gate fees.
Through its lawyer, Joshua Shekede of Wintertons Legal Practitioners, ZLHR filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court on Wednesday challenging the rationality of the government’s decision to arbitrarily hike toll gate fees by 100 percent.
In its application filed by the organisation’s lawyer, Joshua Shekede of Wintertons Legal Practitioners and which is certain to be followed closely by many incensed Zimbabweans, ZLHR wants the High Court to interdict the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) from administering the new toll gate fees.
The government, through Mpofu’s ministry recently increased road toll fees by up to 100 percent in a move regarded by most Zimbabweans as part of efforts by President Robert Mugabe’s administration to boost reserves in its empty public purse.
Mpofu even proceeded to impose the hike in toll gate fees without bothering to respond to queries raised by ZLHR in a letter addressed to the Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister and dated June 24 over the utilisation and accountability of the money collected from designated tolling points around the country.
According to the new toll gate fee schedule, motorists will now pay $2 at each toll gate up from $1, minibuses will pay $3 up from $2, buses will pay $4 up from $3, heavy vehicles will be levied $5 from $4 while haulage trucks will be charged $10 from $5.
In an affidavit deposed to by Selby Hwacha, the human rights organisation’s board member, ZLHR questioned the validity of the statutory instrument which effectively of hiked the toll gate fees and wants a public notice issued on Sunday by Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister Obert Mpofu advising the public that toll gate fees will be hiked beginning Friday to be suspended.
ZLHR, a not for profit human rights organisation whose core objective is to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe as well as encourage the growth and strengthening of human rights at all levels of Zimbabwean society through observance of the rule of law wants the toll gate fee hike to be declared null and void and to be set aside for want of compliance with the provisions of Section 68 of the Constitution as read together with Section 3 of the Administrative Justice Act.
The human rights organisation which has been at the forefront of defending several human and political rights activists in Zimbabwe argued that the government increased the toll gate fees without consulting it and the general motoring public.
ZLHR said the increase in the toll gate fees was done in contravention of the provisions of Section 68 of the Constitution in terms of which Zimbabwean citizens and every other persons have a right to administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, and impartial, both substantively and procedurally.
The human rights organisation argued that the increase in the toll gate fees was also done in contravention of Section 3 of the Administrative Justice Act, (Chapter 10:28), in terms of which Hon. Mpofu was supposed to act lawfully, reasonably and in a fair manner.
The government introduced toll gates on the country’s major highways in 2009 for the benefit of the Road Fund for road maintenance and rehabilitation.
However, critics accuse the government of doing too little to rehabilitate the country’s roads most of which are in a bad shape.