Reports of the existence of a regional liquid fuels trade racket, with Zimbabwe at the centre of it, make for very sad reading.
Our economy is suffering because some of the dealers are taking advantage of the comparatively low price of petrol and diesel by fraudulently exporting the products in huge volumes, moving them into some countries in the region where they sell it at high prices instead of selling it locally. This, at a time when our country is battling an acute shortage of petrol and diesel, is a cause for much concern.
As we report elsewhere in today’s paper, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has asked 42 local fuel companies to explain their fuel dealings as the authority, together with other law enforcement agencies in southern Africa, probe the smuggling of the commodity in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Zacc gave the 42 companies up to January 24 to submit all papers relating to importation of petrol and diesel between January 2018 and December 2019.
Complex cartels are importing fuel from Mozambique at prices in the region of US$0,50 per litre before forwarding it to neighbouring countries using forged export documents.
Zacc chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo yesterday said the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) was also assisting to unearth evidence of fuel smuggling.
“Zacc and Zimra have been conducting an investigation into reports received, indicating that there has been a massive and expansive operation involving smuggling of significant volumes of fuel, mainly diesel and petrol through a number of our ports of entry.
“Investigations carried out thus far reveal the existence of a criminal fuel smuggling syndicate involving entities that are registered in Zimbabwe and in a neighbouring country.
“This criminal project has been in operation for a period of two years and its activities have caused financial prejudice to the Government of Zimbabwe and that of the neighbouring country.”
The companies on the list are Global Oil, Com Oil Petrol, Victoria Falls Truck, Unique Jay, Nansane (Rosmitrick), Bankable Resources, Silver Air, Timkase Investments, Dexfueld Pvt Ltd, Chilota Mine, Mann Aggregates, Matriflex Oils, Bresville Investments, Fastlane Petroleum, Couderay Oil, Outrech Comm, Plulixey Petroleum, Bantu Africa Mining, Valley Field Holdings, Takunda Fuel Services, Musa Petroleum, Einstein Energy, Kinsey Mining, Emirates Valley, Afrifor, Megabest, Nelich Investments, BOL Supplies, Traderose Investments, Coalvart Enterprises, Kit Kat Enterprises, Skybuild Construction, Elkrus Pvt Limited, Getmack Fuels, Falika Pvt Ltd, Bustque, Talebrant Investments, Peritus, Downtown Fuel, Valbazen Enterprises, Quick Gases and Roomi Truckshop.
While we acknowledge the principle that the companies named are innocent until proven guilty, we are saddened by the allegations of corruption at such an industrial scale in a sector so central to the wellbeing of our economy. We are also saddened, as noted earlier, by reports of corrupt exportation of petrol and diesel at a time when the local market is short of supplies resulting in motorists queuing for days at fuel stations with the operations of most companies compromised. The economic impact of the fuel shortage in our country is obviously enormous.
We know that the petroleum industry, even at the global stage, is notorious for opaque operations and illegal trade. This is so because the lure of big profit is always there since the global economy runs on fuel. It is a ubiquitous, essential product that guarantees profits to those involved. As such those involved are known to be powerful. In addition, they typically fight tenaciously to clear their names that are obviously dirty while doing all they can to frustrate investigations.
For these and more reasons, Zacc, Zimra and police and their counterparts in Zambia, DRC, Mozambique and other countries are in for what we consider will be a complex investigation which can actually be risky at a personal level for the investigators.
The risks and enormity of the challenge must however, not intimidate authorities from getting to the bottom of the murky deals. Zacc, Zimra and police and their counterparts in the region must work extremely hard to unravel this racket. We want to understand how the cartel operates its cross-border smuggling ring, identities of the racketeers and the impact of their criminal activities on economies.
Whoever is going to be caught on the wrong side of the law must be severely punished in their individual capacities and at the level of their companies.