By Aristide Bance
Compliments of the season, good people. I hope you are well and starting 2022 on a good note and keeping safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As I begin this year with my first article, I refer to an article by Edwin M. Hatembo Junior that appeared in October on the 30th of 2013 titled, ‘Why Zambia needs Toll Roads.’ The article appeared in Lusaka Times before introducing the tolling system in Zambia. The article’s author perfectly and concisely outlined the need for toll roads in Zambia, the advantages and disadvantages which were outweighed by advantages, by the way, reasons for paying tolls, the benefits, and what tolls fees are used for.
As a refresher, I begin off by simply stating what a toll road is for the sake of clarity. A toll road, also known as a turnpike or tollway, is a public or private road (almost always a controlled-access highway in the present day) for which a fee (or toll) is assessed for passage. It is a form of road pricing typically implemented to help recoup the costs of road construction and maintenance. In Zambia, 26 toll roads and 37 toll sites are listed.
I came for a holiday in December 2021, and it was lovely to see what Zambia has done in terms of toll plazas, and the road maintenance is evident on most roads. Since then, we have moved from toll drums and small booths to more enormous structures that I hope will improve with time.
A friend of mine from South Africa, upon seeing the toll plazas in Zambia, remarked by saying, “Wow, these toll plazas look like the very first ones we had in South Africa.” It now gives me hope that the plazas will, with time, become better, and we should not relax and be content with their current state. It is also amazing to think that when tolling was introduced in Zambia, people resisted confirming many things in terms of Zambians being exposed to what is done in other countries like South Africa.
HAZARDS NEAR PLAZAS
Along the T1 Road, I passed through a small toll plaza called Kebby Musokotwane Toll Station from Southern province. The toll plaza is tiny, and the approaches road is small with only 2-ways on either side. What struck me most was that, after you pass it, you are met by villagers trading next to it. It is an excellent entrepreneurial spirit, and people should be commended. However, this is the T1 road, and it presents a hazard. As the mini-markets grow near the highway, it becomes busy, which is a hazard. People start constructing unsightly structures, and people cross the highway willy-nilly, and then we start having fatalities. People should have a sense of responsibility and care as they approach a highway.
If this is not achieved, we will have villages and trading posts near busy highways near toll plazas. My thinking is to widen the approach or the depart sides of the plaza and barricade the sides so that people do not trade there. If that is left unchecked, I fear that we will have an unsightly fully-fledged market there.
A safe distance from the toll plaza, a modern structure for trading with ablution facilities could be erected. This will create a clean and safe environment for the traders. We are creating jobs…simple. We will have traders, maintenance cleaners, sweepers, fee-paying toilet attendants, etc. We solve a lot of problems, such as travelers having a relief station for food and answering the call of nature for themselves. It’s the simple things in life, I always say.
TOLL ROAD SIGNAGES
The signage in Zambia also leaves much to be desired. As I observed, along the toll roads in South Province, the kilometers are also not indicated. It would be nice to have those as one travels as it gives one a sense of distance. As you approached Mazabuka on small white reflective concrete pillars, I saw those distances indicated and this, for people with eye problems like myself presents a challenge.
The Mazabuka road only has those little signages because it is being worked on which by the way is a nice road. The signage could be better placed as big boards instead of ‘MBK 12 km.’ The writing of MBK is also not wise as this road is used by not only locals who may know or not know what MBK is but also by international travelers. It is always good to put proper signage and not work on assumptions that people know. It just makes things easier. The reasoning may be to save costs and not have people carry the small concrete signages, but I believe better signage could be adopted and standardized across Zambia as we are now being tolled.
In conclusion, Zambia needs to better arrange the toll roads in terms of how the roads are made to avoid a situation where people trade near them and create unsightly structures. We do not want a problem where toll gates look like Mumbwa roads and pose people hazards. Let us not wait for a disaster to act. We have all the time in the world to correct this situation before it gets out of hand.