HARARE, Zimbabwe – As a large number of Zimbabweans over the past year turned to use bicycles for commuting in the wake of a ban on public transport, the government has seen an opportunity to earn revenues, by imposing license fees on cycling.
Experts say that in a bid to earn revenue and fill state coffers, fleecing bicycle commutators has made this poor man’s vehicle a costly affair in the capital Harare.
Local authorities introduced a license fee of 1,250 Zimbabwean dollars ($15) annually for bicycles and 1, 310 Zimbabwean dollars ($17) for tricycles.
In the wake of the continued ban on public transport despite the number of COVID-19 cases declining, bicycles had become a popular mode of transport in the country.
“There is just inadequate transport to fetch people like me to and fro, from work. I have turned to my bicycle to find my way to and from work,” Danai Mapurisana Mapurisana, a 47-year-old resident, told Anadolu Agency.
Even school children like Denis Chihwai, 17, had turned to use bicycles to attend classes.
Cyclists like Mapurisana and Chihwai say that this fee was beyond the reach of their pocket.
“I work as a security guard and I have not been receiving my wages for more than four months now because my employer claims there is no money as clients are taking longer to pay for our services,” Mapurisana said.
It is even worse for Chihwai who said his education is being sponsored by well-wishers as he is an orphan.
“I live with someone not related to me at all because my parents died and well-wishers pay my school fees and the bicycle that I use was donated to me and now to go back and ask well-wishers to pay for my license won’t be easy,” Chihwai told Anadolu Agency.
2006 law dusted out
To impose taxes, the government dusted out a 2006 bylaw that stipulates that anyone failing to pay the license fee can be prosecuted, fined, or even sentenced to one to five years of imprisonment.
“It is true we have started enforcing the bylaws and fining those who don’t have licenses. We are doing it as part of making sure we maximize on revenues,” said Harare’s Municipality Council spokesperson Michael Chideme.
He said imposing such a license fee on cyclists had been long overdue.
A street vendor Nobert Gwande, 26, said that he had turned to use a bicycle in absence of normal public transport to continue his business.
“I have no choice except to use my bicycle because the government has banned public transport and only allows its buses to operate, which are not enough for us,” Gwande told Anadolu Agency.
Many politicians like former Energy Minister Fortune Chasi had urged Zimbabweans to turn to bicycles and motorbikes for commutation to save fuel.
“Coronavirus robbed us of commuter omnibuses that used to ferry us easily without hustles. After the government banned them and it’s because the bicycle becomes the only alternative for me,” said Mapurisana.