Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRCD) has called on the Government to revise the newly gazetted toll gate fees.
HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence said this in a statement today.
According to a Government Notice, motorists will have to pay a minimum of K1,700 and a maximum of K50,000 to gain passage through the tollgates. Local motorists will enjoy a 20 percent discount and if they use the toll frequently, they will enjoy 75 percent discount.
Trapence in the statement noted that the tollgate system spurs development in the sense that it raises essential funds for the maintenance of the vital road infrastructure.
He, however, argued that the fees should not be prohibitive and should not be used to impinge on economic freedoms of Malawians.
Trapence said government has decided to play the evil taxman by overtaxing Malawians many times over for the same purpose which he said is shameful and deplorable.
“It is an open secret that more than half of earnings by Malawians go back to State coffers through payment of various taxes. Government is being unreasonable to Malawians by adding more high fees and taxes. We would like Government to justify how it arrived at these toll gate figures. The State must expressly demonstrate if these fees are in tandem with the current cost of living for Malawians who are pinned by untold economic hardships.
“Comparatively, in the neighbouring countries such as South Africa—whose economy is better than ours—has lower toll gates fees,” he said.
Trapence further noted that the country’s roads are in very bad shape and there is a high rise of accidents that have taken many lives due to state’s negligence to improve the conditions of roads in the country.
He went on to say that government is failing to account for the fuel levies that it collects on every litre of fuel sold and that is why Malawians do not have any trust that the toll funds will be used for intended purposes.
“Before government starts collecting toll fees it must explain how the money will be administered and used. That piece of accountability will ensure that there is no abuse of funds just like is the case with other state funds,” said Trapence.
He then called upon government to consult with the various stakeholders that represent road users and ordinary citizenry in order to revise the fees so that they are within reach of most Malawians.