EDITORIAL : THE MAYOR IS RIGHT, IT’S TIME FOR ORDER

HARARE Mayor, Jacob Mafume, has said the Sunshine City was probably the only capital city in the world whose residents just drive into the central business district (CBD) to get their nails done.

Or, he said, to drink beer at their favourite city centre joints.

The city’s authorities, he said, should find ways to deal with some of these issues as part of a cocktail of measures to reduce congestion in Harare’s CBD, an area which is now choked with all sorts of vehicles.

Mafume said the time had come for authorities to tame the traffic jungle and there was need for everyone involved in the exercise to think outside the box in trying to find lasting solutions.

Mafume said the road infrastructure in the city should be improved as part of measures to deal with congestion.

He said some of the islands on the city’s major streets like Samora Machel and Julius Nyerere were not adding any value to the capital city.

He said he believes the islands should be removed and help add extra lanes to the major streets.

His remarks have generated considerable debate, especially on social media, where there are different views — with some supporting him and others opposing him.

What is not in question is the reality that Harare is choking right now and the congestion in the CBD has reached levels which are not acceptable.

What isn’t in question is that Mafume is right that something has to be done about the situation and what differs probably is about what should be done and how it should be done.

Mafume talked about looking at other cities, especially those cities which have a Congestion Charge and trying to find what the authorities in Harare could borrow, from such models, to deal with their predicament.

A Congestion Charge is a fee, which drivers must pay, for driving into a certain radius in the centre of a city.

It was first introduced in Singapore in1975 and it is implemented in cities like London, Milan, Stockholm and Gothenburg.

This month, it will be implemented in New York City and there has been proposal for its introduction in San Francisco.

Singapore and Stockholm charge a congestion fee every time a car crosses a certain cordon in these cities while London has a flat daily fee of £15 per day.

The fee is applicable when one drives within the Congestion Charge zone from 7am and 6pm from Monday to Friday and from midday to 6pm on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.

The charge doesn’t apply on Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.

Those who can prove that they live within the cordon pay a smaller amount for the Congestion charge.

This has been found to be an effective way of dealing with traffic congestion in major cities and it’s refreshing to note that Mafume is drawing lessons from cities which are implementing these measures.

We need order in Harare’s CBD and, if that means it has to be paid for, then the better.

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