Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
Government has said it will only announce fuel prices on the gazetted 5th of every month and the public should ignore false claims regarding price hikes that have been circulating since long queues resurfaced at service stations.
Social media has been awash with claims that there is an imminent fuel price increase.
The false claims are alleged to have triggered hoarding of the commodity while suppliers are allegedly withholding petrol and diesel.
The fuel shortages have worsened in Bulawayo in the past few days with some motorists spending more than 48 hours in queues but still not getting the commodity.
Motorists had during the initial stage of the national lockdown from 30 March to April 19 enjoyed improved fuel supplies as most people were stuck at home.
The fuel situation is also threatening economic activities at a time when local industry is supposed to produce adequately for the local market.
The Covid-19 imposed national lockdown has minimised imports and industrialists have said fuel becomes a critical factor if they are to effectively produce.
Chronicle observed that while most fuel service stations did not have the commodity yesterday those which had the commodity were characterised by long winding queues.
Motorists said after spending two days in queues, they were not guaranteed that it was going to be delivered.
“I queued at a Trek service station on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was not able to get fuel but Total Service Stations had it. I finally decided to brave the long queues at Total on Thursday but fuel ran out before I could buy. Today I left my car at Total but I’m being told Engen Service Stations are the only ones with fuel in Bulawayo. This is so frustrating, I can’t spend every hour of every day queuing for fuel,” said Mr Sikhulile Sibanda of Gwabalanda suburb.
Ms Marjorie Moyo of the same suburb said: “Maybe it is true that the price of fuel will soon go up. I think service stations lie to us that they have run out, so that they can sell petrol after a price hike has been announced.”
Minister of Energy and Power Development Advocate Fortune Chasi said Government will follow laid down regulations on fuel prices.
According Statutory Instrument 270 of 2019 fuel prices should be determined using the previous month’s international market prices and announcements done on the 5th of every month. He said Government cannot play to the gallery on issues to do with fuel prices.
“We will just stick to the law. We can’t work on the basis of speculations,” said Minister Chasi.
On the other hand, Zera acting chief executive officer Engineer Edington Mazambani said the fuel supplies should improve over the weekend, as there was a challenge in procurement.
“The current shortages are attributed to fuel logistical glitches experienced in the fuel procurement system by oil companies which created a gap in supply chain resulting in the demand surpassing supply. Supplies are expected to improve to match the increased demand,” said Eng Mazambani.
He said while lockdown has eased pressure on fuel supplies the re-opening of the economy has seen an increase in the commodity demand as was before.
“It is true that the relaxation of the restrictions put in place during the initial phase of the lockdown has led to increased economic activity, increased movements of vehicles. The artificial surplus experienced during the first phase of the lockdown has therefore disappeared. Plans are underway to improve supplies by this weekend,” he said, although not explaining how they will do it.
Eng Mazambani said the permanent solution to the fuel problem lies in the country generating foreign currency.
“The solution to the fuel supply is realised when there are adequate supplies of foreign currency to procure fuel against all the other national needs. For that to happen, the country must be able to produce and export goods and to an extent where exports exceed imports. Efficient use of the precious liquid will also go help bridge the gap,” said Eng Mazambani.
He said lockdowns in various countries has not impacted on the country’s fuel supplies.
An industrialist and Association for Businesses Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mr Victor Nyoni said fuel shortages were having a negative impact on the economy, especially during the national lockdown.
“We need to appreciate that fuel is driving all the production in the economy so fundamentally that without it, companies’ productivity is affected. This forces businesses to source fuel from other more expensive sources. Businesses have to recoup the extra cost somehow. At the end of the day the cost is passed on to the consumers,” said Mr Nyoni. — @nqotshili.