By Gilbert Liswaniso
The exorbitant toll fees being experienced on the Zambian side of the newly-commissioned Kazungula Bridge are due to the recklessness of outgoing President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) government which failed to pay its nearly US$15 million contribution to the project.
Instead of meeting its obligation towards the joint Zambia-Botswana North-South Corridor project, Mr Lungu’s PF regime was spending US$42 million on procuring 42 second-hand fire trucks.
They were also awarded contracts to their PF-aligned sympathisers to buy ambulances at inflated prices.
It is now the common people who are being punished for the PF’s pure lack of spending priorities as they were hell-bent on dubiously raising money for their election campaign instead of working for the Zambian people.
Because Zambia had failed to honour its obligation, the government of Botswana had to come in to pay the amount that should have come from this country.
Now, to recoup the money the Botswana government spent on the project on behalf of the Zambian government, the toll fees on the Zambian side of the Kazungula Bridge have been increased.
As the United Party for National Development (UPND), we find it shameful that the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) will be collecting revenue that will not go into the Zambian treasury but into the coffers of Botswana.
Given the scale of the economic challenges the Zambian citizens continue to face, it is an act of both economic exploitation and sabotage for the PF to continue punishing people in an attempt to patch up the inescapable cost of government corruption in the execution of government projects.
It is worth noting that with the Zambian kwacha continuously on an unpredictable downward spiral against the United States dollar, Zambian business people will have real challenges coping with the toll fees as their businesses continue to tumble.
We urge the PF administration, through the ZRA, to quickly review the toll amounts and realign them to support the already struggling businesses of Zambian citizens.
The priority for the incoming UPND administration will be to leverage such bilateral projects to support the growth of Zambian businesses through cross-border transit incentives.
This especially because we are aware that the majority of the people involved in in cross-border business are young people.
This is in line with the UPND manifesto which guarantees business opportunities, meaningful employment and job creation.
We, therefore, wish to echo the advice by our party president, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, for the PF administration to speak for the young people and women involved in cross-border trade by immediately revisiting and revising the toll fees.