My Toll Fees!!!

“Iwe Driver usawanze mabhambo mhani kovolume yeradio nespeed waisepi 20yrs kusvika paPolice here shamwari!!” shouts a drunk man sitting right behind me in the mini bus we are travelling on and immediately a discussion erupts on the state of roads in the country.

I choose to be an invisible participant in this discussion, opting only for a humble listening role. An elderly man sitting in the front row of the mini bus en route Bindura interjects and starts on a historical trail about how the road was built less than ten years ago. He, like many on the bus, is surprised that this road has deteriorated in such a short time. Roads built-in his youth lasted longer and almost mumbling to himself he wonders if roads are now being imported from China too.

Just then the driver quickly diverts onto a dusty winding course on the road side. In the last few weeks motorists have been using a pathway used by villagers in order to avoid the potholes that are spread all over the tar. It has become a yearly ritual that in the rainy season we exchange roads with pedestrians. Avoiding potholes on this patch has become increasingly difficult and the cost is very high on both private and public vehicle operators who have to endure higher maintenance costs. Local government authorities do not seem bothered about this ugly patch given that since this rainy season started two months ago they have not made an attempt to cover the potholes. Of course covering the potholes is a temporary solution since what this patch really needs is complete resurfacing.

One passenger muses over the fact that the dusty road we are travelling on is much smoother and now everyone can hear the music playing on the radio. At this point I am not sure if full blast dance hall music really is music to my ears especially given that a radio speaker is right above my head. The elderly man intercepts my thoughts when he says “Todzokeraka kuchinyakare muzukuru, nyika ino ha ini ndaitadza chimbonditaurira kuti zvirikufamba sei” Much to my relief he asks the conductor to reduce the volume so that we listen to much better things than his music. The young conductor complies and a middle-aged woman sitting in-front of us turns and explains that these roads are just a sign of the corruption in this country. “Ko hamuverengi news here nhai baba.”, referring to recent reports in the Herald on debts that have been incurred by ZINNARA plus scandals that are rocking the parastatal. “Nezuro chaiye hamuna kuiona here muHerald, varikudya mari ava. They don’t care kuti munoshanda zvakadini kuti mubhadhare dollar kukombi and then driver pays kutollgate ivo vodya zvavo” She explains how 26 toll gates, 5.5 million dollars per month and two years later Zimbabweans still are short-changed on the quality of roads they travel on.

My attention is caught by her conclusion that our leaders do not care about the fact that Zimbabweans are working hard to get the little money they make in any given day. It is extremely hard to make a dollar in any given day!! That dollar we make is difficult to split amongst the many needs we need to meet and for most of us we have to make do with the winning choice of the day. Many a time the option of satisfying one choice a time leaves a lot of equally important needs; whether educational, health or shelter, unattended. We have long acknowledged the inabilities of our government and take to the role of fending for our families with grace. Yet after all our hard work public company officials and politicians think it is ok to waste away our hard-earned money on the pleasures of this earth. We get to see pictures of their big Brooke houses, lavish holiday destinations, upmarket choice of medical facilities, their fat kids in schools abroad and watch their fast cars drive past toll gates, of course they are exempted from paying.

Is it because we do not ask the right people, the right questions; that there is so much impunity. Is it because we choose to ask the right questions on mini buses, in our houses over dinner or at funerals with our relatives. Is it because they do not know that we would appreciate if they made better use of our money. Are we a dumb nation that watches silently as those we entrust with our hard-earned tax payers money worsen their unaccountable behaviour and make no effort to hide their inefficiency any more.

I snap out of my deep thought just in time to remind the conductor to drop me of at my bus stop. The bus stop is three minutes away and I have time to take a look at every face on the bus. Just then I realise we all want the same thing. It has nothing to do with the fact that some of us live in towns or villages, it does not matter that some of us drive their own cars or use public transport. We just want to travel on good roads, we want more roads, we want our gravel roads tarred and we want someone to start telling us how they are using our toll fees.

My niece is waiting for me on the road side ready to help carry groceries I have brought from town. I disembark and immediately wish I had told them that their fellow Zimbabweans in town have the same problem with potholes. Just this afternoon city council workers were filing some with dirt. If only we could find solidarity because of our common challenges “Gas rapera mhama” my niece says interrupting my thoughts. I have to attend to the gas issue and I guess I have to live to talk about potholes another day.

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