Police in Ntcheu yesterday cleared illegal roadblocks mounted on a road that some motorists were using as a bypass to avoid paying toll fees at the newly opened Chingeni Toll Plaza on the M1.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed the development, saying the move was in response to reports that some individuals were collecting money from motorists using the bypass.
He said: “We believe that everyone has a right to use any route they wish to use. However, we understand that no one has the right to collect fees from others in such illegal spots, that is the reason we have cleared the roadblocks.
“We did not arrest anyone on this mission, but we hope this serves as a warning to would-be offenders.”
In a bid to avoid paying the toll fees, some motorists are diverting from the M1 at Manjawira Trading Centre in Ntcheu and pass through Mtonda to Nsipe or Kampepuza to rejoin the M1.
In a separate interview, a local commuter vehicle driver in Balaka, Ernest Chiphaka, confirmed using the bypass, saying it offered convenience and an alternative to those that cannot afford toll fees.
“From Balaka Market to Chingeni, I carry five passengers who pay K500 each, but I use fuel worth K2 000.
“So, for me to pay an extra K1 700 from such tight profits is nearly impossible to do so twice, only 30 minutes after passing there. For me, the arrangement only makes sense to big buses that travel long distances,” he said.
In an interview yesterday, University of Malawi economics professor Ben Kaluwa advised government to identify the routes and assess numbers of those using the bypass to evaluate potential losses.
He said: “These uncharted routes are definitely bound to affect the total revenue, but again this was bound to happen as others had already expressed skepticism before it was launched.
“Over time, there is hope that people may become more open to the idea but the government still has to check frequency of those using the route as it may be less than others may paint to be hence not fully affecting the tollgate revenue.”
Roads Fund Administration is charging K1 700 per pass for light vehicles, K3 400 for minibuses and pickups while for buses with a seating capacity of between 17 to 31 passengers, the fee is K5 100. Vehicles with a 10-tonne capacity are paying K8 000 and abnormal load vehicles K20 000.