ActionAid country director Nalucha Ziba says funds collected from toll gates must be utilized on road maintenance and should only be diverted if there is an excess.
Speaking to journalists in Siavonga recently, Nalucha observed that it did not make sense to pay toll gate fees when roads were poorly maintained.
“When you look at the tax burden on an average Zambian, it’s way too high. You will agree with me that if you are a working Zambian you are the same person who is having the Pay As You Earn, you are paying your road tax, you are still paying your VAT on the goods you are buying, you are still interacting with the toll gates and so on. Of course we have other levies which have been introduced. For us, there’s still need to harmonise a number of things before introducing more taxes and also try to get input from various stakeholders. And probably we are of the view that they should find another way around which under ground water can be regulated without charging. Because water is a basic right. So from the human rights framework, we are struggling to agree with this borehole tax as an institution,” Ziba said.
“Also the toll gates, we have a bit of worry in the sense that we have seen how the toll gates levy are being administered in other countries. When you pay for a toll gate, it’s rare that you will even encounter a pothole on that road. But in Zambia the moment you by pass a toll gate the next thing you are going to find is either drive on the stretch of a bad road, and yet you have paid. So the service delivery is not matched to the tax you are paying. So there’s need to try and relook into this whole toll gate.”
Nakucha said there should be transparency in the funds collected on toll gates.
“Maybe the government needs to rework on the roads before they introduced the toll gates. Also there should be transparency in the funds collected on the toll gates. Recently we were undertaking a desk review as ActionAid. We were in Chongwe to try and understand the toll gate which had been put up there in terms of community involvement and council involvement. One of the things we found is that the funds are collected from the toll gates they go to sit at national government,” she said.
“But we are of the view that those money should sit with the local government so that they are used for improving the road sector in those areas where those tollgates are put, so that they are able to be channelled towards improving the road sector. And if there’s a surplus, it can even be extended to the education and health sector. And they should also act as the way of providing jobs for the local communities in those areas.”
And Nalucha observed that although Zambia was a youthful nation, the participation of youths in the governance sector left much to be desired.
“As ActionAid we have realised that Zambia is a youthful nation. We are by and large a young nation. However when you look at the participation of young people in our governance sector, it leaves much to be desired. It is too largely dominated by a certain age group who are also dominating when it comes to economic affairs of this country. So the youths in Zambia are sort of left out from economic activities, also participation in governance activities. The country is not providing options for them. Even spaces for youths participation are not being opened up,” she said.
Nalucha appealed to governmnet to open up spaces for the participation of young people in governance activities.
“We feel that the youths of this country deserve better and there’s need for government to put into practice the policies. We have so many policies in this country which support inclusivity of youths in various sectors of our country. However the practice is to the contrary. The youths who are participating are those [are] ones who are politically exposed, who are seen to be on the right side of things. And even their participation is limited to undertaking negative vices which is not really helping then to reach their maximum potential. Therefore we feel that there’s a lot which can be done around harnessing the demographic dividend of the youthful population we have as a country. Our appeal is that can the spaces be opened up for participation of young people,” said Nalucha.