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Zambia Toll Scam

Toll fees taking their toll on tourists

Gill Staden, eTN  May 30, 2011

(eTN) - As we all know, our borders are horrid things to pass through. There is customs control; there is insurance to pay; there is the toll fee; there can be a Council levy; and lastly at Kazungula, there is an ESCO pontoon fee. All of these things are paid in different offices to different people. It all leads to a lot of confusion.

Recently I received a complaint about the toll fees for tourists:

We were hassled by the police at the Vic Falls crossing and have later found out from others that cars with foreign number plates are being targeted. We were threatened with arrest because we had not paid a toll fee. We argued that ourselves and my brother-in-law had come in through 2 separate borders, had been allowed to give our documents and pass and no toll fee was mentioned.

Apparently this is a total scam, and others in Malawi have had the same hassle and checked out the story. A toll fee should only be paid by lorries. After we were questioned, taken to the police hut, and then round to the toll fee booth (where the only man selling toll fees had gone to the bank), they told us to view the falls and go back. We went back later and found the toll fee man who said the booth is only open from 4:00 am to 9:00 am, so it is very difficult to pay a toll fee even if we had to pay. As we left, the police were questioning someone else with Malawian number plates.

When I have been crossing borders and have asked the RTSA officers for the information on toll fees, it has been difficult to get. I was told that I had to go to the RTSA office in Livingstone and see the officer in charge – who was the only one who could give out information to the public. I find this extremely strange as this is public information. Anyhow, getting back to the story, I went to the RTSA office in town, and they couldn’t tell me anything and told me to go to the border.

So I went to Vic Falls border, and one officer kindly allowed me to see the sensitive information which I photographed. At the bottom of the sheet it states that foreign vehicles 0-3000cc have to pay US$10 to Livingstone and US$20 if they travel further.

This information is valid, one assumes, for vehicles coming in through the Vic Falls border. What the charges are coming in at other borders, I can’t say. What the rule is, I don’t know.

When crossing in to Botswana or Namibia, only one payment is required – it covers everything from insurance to the toll fee – and is paid at the customs desk. There is no confusion and payment is quick. Even in Zimbabwe the customs officer collects all payments issuing a computer receipt.

Why do we make the lives of our visitors so difficult? We are still living in a bygone age, I think.

Toll fees taking their toll on tourists
Photo by Gill Staden

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