Hard-pressed Harare motorists have invaded the city’s Kopje area and other outlying zones to evade prohibitive city parking rates within the CBD.
Harare charges $1 per hour in parking fees, a rate motorists feel is too high.
“I work eight hours every day five times a week and if I were to religiously pay the fees it means I incur $40 in a week and $160 in a month and that to me is a fortune given that I also struggle to raise money for fuel. So these are convenient spots for people who are in my situation,” said one Dennis Maphosa who parks in the Kopje area.
Concern has also been raised over the city’s clamping fines, which are pegged at $57, with motorists sometimes charged up to $100 if a car is towed to the city’s council’s warehouse in Working industrial area.
There are additional charges of $11 per day for storage. Some motorists feel the city’s pricing model should take heed of residents’ diminishing incomes resulting from the current economic crisis.
“Harare should also introduce incentives whereby if one parks for three consecutive hours, they are then billed 50 cents thereafter,” said Levy Mapuranga, who parks his car in the Avenues area and completes his journey into the city centre on foot.
Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni defended the rates which he said were an indispensable revenue stream for the cash strapped authority in light of a high default rate among rate payers.
“I have heard those sentiments many times that the pricing of our parking is on the high side, but regrettably, the timing for such reduction is not ideal because it’s one of the few revenue streams that is contributing in an era where we are failing to collect all our dues in terms of current and outstanding bills,” Manyenyeni said.
He declined to comment if the city entertained any plans to bill those who try to evade parking fees by parking on the CBD’s peripheries, saying this was “normal human behaviour”.
City authorities also feel the charges are justified to avoid cases where some people have turned parking spaces into makeshift flea markets to sell clothing, prepared food and other commodities from car boots.
Mfundo Mlilo, director with the Combined Harare Residents Association, said the city parking rates were the best strategy to maintain order in the CBD.
“The rates are justified as this helps reduce the volume of traffic into the city centre. If that was not the situation, the city would be unliveable because some people would unnecessarily drive into the city centre simply to buy bread,” he said.
Mlilo said too much vehicular traffic in the CBD also endangered human lives.
The CHRA director said residents should, however, concern themselves with how revenue generated by the authority was being utilised as the city’s commercial entities such as City Parking, which runs the lucrative service, have gone largely unaudited raising concerns of massive looting by those running them.
Because it is running as a private entity, council has no oversight role over the firm’s affairs.
A recent audit into Harare affairs by the Local Government Ministry unearthed a massive salary scam by city executives.