Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) has planned a nationwide protest from Monday next week to force government to reduce the access fees at the newly introduced tollgate at Chingeni in Ntcheu.
In an interview on the sidelines of a press briefing in Blantyre yesterday, Moam general secretary Coaxley Kamange said the tollgate fees were exorbitant and that there were no thorough consultations in coming up with the fees structure.
He said: “In September, the association asked the Ministry of Transport to scrap the fuel levies and remove all taxis operating along the Blantyre- Lilongwe route before implementing tollgates.
“We were assured that they would consider our request. But we were surprised when they wrote to us on November 2  that they will go ahead to implement the protested tollgate fees.”
In a published statement on Monday, the Roads Fund Administration (RFA) announced the implementation of toll fees at Chingeni Toll Plaza on the M1. The fees range from K1 700 to K20 000 per pass, depending on the size of the vehicle.
Initially, the Ministry of Finance deferred the roll-out of the tollgate from September 1 to October 1 2021 purportedly to enable Malawians fully understand their importance.
When the tollgate fees were announced in August, several stakeholders expressed reservations saying they were on the higher side.
Kamange yesterday said Moam requested the Ministry of Finance to reduce the set K3 400 tollgate fees for Class 1B and K5 100 for Class 2A to K500 and K600 respectively on the basis that they are exorbitant compared to passenger fares.
While stressing that the tollgate fees will stifle their minibus operations, he said the association will
on Monday to hold a vigil at the Chingeni Toll Plaza and stop other transport operators as part of the protests.
Kamange’s sentiments were also echoed by Moam chairperson Peter Mvalo who said their business will be affected by the toll fees.
According to the Malawi Gazette Supplement dated August 6 2021 signed by Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu, the tollgate fees or other charges imposed for use for a tolled public road shall form part of the roads maintenance funds and shall be used for maintenance or rehabilitation of the tolled public roads.
Failure to comply with the regulations shall attract a penalty of K1 million and imprisonment of 12 months.
In a separate telephone interview yesterday, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said it is sad that Roads Fund Administration disregarded input from numerous stakeholders on the matter.
He said Cama only met the Roads Fund Administration once when a proposal on the tollgate fees was being made and they were never engaged again thereafter.
Kapito said: “When one looks at the tollgate fees, they are on the higher side and given the current economic meltdown, it will be difficult for small minibus operators to make money.
” This country is undergoing serious economic challenges and consumers do not have money. Our advice has been yes, introduce the tollgate fees, but reduce the fees and slowly adjust upon acceptance and compliance.”
He said Cama also advised the Roads Fund Administration to stop collecting road levies as do so is double taxation on the same consumer.
Efforts to speak to Roads Fund Administration spoke s p e rson Masauko Mngwaluko proved futile as he could not be reached on his mobile number.
But he is on record as having told The Nation edition of August 20 2021 that the fees are on the lower side compar ed to count r i e s within the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region.
Among others, at a time of passing through a tollgate motorist driving light vehicles will pay K1 700, K3 400 for minibuses and pickups, K5100 for two to five tonne vehicles carrying between 17 and 31 passengers, K8 000 for 10 tonnes vehicles while abnormal load vehicles pay K20000.
The Roads Fund Administration introduced the tollgates as a reform area to diversify sources of financing for road maintenance which currently solely relies on fuel levies on prices of petrol and diesel.
It expects to raise between K4 billion and K5 billion per year with the figure projected to rise with the passage of time.
Roads Fund is also constructing another tollgate in Dedza.