Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
GOVERNMENT has threatened to deregister fuel suppliers who withhold fuel in garages for speculation or for selling at inflated foreign currency rates against gazetted prices.
This comes after all but one fuel service station in Victoria Falls have been without fuel for the past week, leaving motorists stranded.
The only service station that had fuel pegged the price at between US$1.50 and US$1.59 per litre for petrol and diesel, respectively.
Few motorists who have access to foreign currency have been buying the fuel as others said they could not afford to buy forex from the black market because of high exchange rates.
Taxi operators responded by hiking commuter fares where a single trip of about 3.5km which is the furthest distance in Victoria Falls from town to the suburbs is now between $15 and $20 up from $12.
A majority of residents have resorted to walking to work with the exception of those in the mainstream tourism industry who use staff busses.
Speaking at the South Africa-Zambia and Zimbabwe Infrastructure Summit and Expo here yesterday, Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi said Government will soon act on those that violate policy.
He said the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) is on the ground monitoring the situation.
“Very soon there will be order in the fuel sector. We can’t have people accessing foreign currency from the Central Bank and then go on to sell fuel anyhow. For those that don’t comply I will simply take their licenses and tear them up because we can’t have our people being punished by unscrupulous dealers,” said Minister Chasi.
He said some have taken Government for granted and ignored warnings.
“Government has expressed concern in the past regarding that type of conduct and yesterday the Ministry (Finance) expressed itself in very strong terms in terms of saying to those that are engaging in malpractices that we will de-licence them because we can’t have profiteering people.
“We understand that they are businesspeople and must make money but when they become such a huge drag around the neck of the public, we will take decisive action through Zera,” warned Minister Chasi.
He said regulations around Direct Fuel Import (DFI) facility are now in place and will be announced soon to direct the country on which dealers are allowed to sell in foreign currency.
A fortnight ago, Minister Chasi said those allowed to sell in forex are the ones that supply foreign delegates.
The Minister said competition for fuel is high in the country hence the need for tightening of surveillance and monitoring mechanisms.
“We will take action: we will be getting updates and Zera is working around the clock to ensure that there is total compliance with the law,” he added.
He acknowledged that some of the glitches in supply of fuel have been a result of delays in supply and pricing of fuel on the international scene.
He said Government has addressed the issue through Statutory Instrument 270 which stipulates how prices are announced on or before the 5th of each implementation month.
Minister Chasi also told delegates at the conference that Government is seriously considering venturing into solar powered electronic vehicles (EVs).
He said while Zimbabweans mock the idea, other countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom are already at advanced stages of implementing the new technology.
“This is not a joke. South Africa has started yet in Zimbabwe once you talk about it people laugh and say I am a failure. We need strategic planning. We need to begin to save on costs of importing energy and demolish fuel consumption by looking at EVs,” he said. — @ncubeleon