Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO is facing a shortage of Liquid Petroleum (LP) Gas which has seen the commodity’s price going up in the few centres where it is being sold.
Sources said the shortage is partly due to disruptions in product importations caused by protests that occurred in South Africa nearly two weeks ago.
LP Gas is among the rising alternative energy sources that members of the public have resorted to.
Its price went up from US$1,70 to $2 per kg or R30 from R25 per kg and equivalent using the parallel market rates.
Government is in the process of regulating the prices of LP Gas which is dominated by the private sector.
A snap survey by a Chronicle news yesterday revealed that the commodity was scarce in most centres.
Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda yesterday referred questions to Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera).
“Talk to Zera which is mandated to regulate energy resources of the country,” briefly said Minister Soda.
A comment could not be obtained from Zera as officials did not respond to Chronicle questions.
Workers at Value Gas situated at the Kelvin industrial site near the Grain Marketing Board Bulawayo depot said they were only expecting deliveries between Tuesday and Wednesday.
The company is one of the biggest suppliers of LP Gas in Bulawayo where other retailers also buy from.
The workers declined to reveal what could have caused the shortages, but the news crew got wind that the shortages are a result of disruptions in the transportation supply chains from South Africa.
“LP Gas is largely imported from South Africa so the protests that occurred in South Africa in the last week or so had a knock on effect on our supplies. Most of the LP Gas companies that still have the product had procured it earlier in the month and it might run out soon. We hope that cargo would soon freely move in South Africa as their situation has stabilised,” said a source in the LP Gas procurement industry.
“The reason why we still have supplies is that we had stocked up. So, when this shortage started. We are now seeing more clients coming to us. This has forced us to marginally increase our prices.”
The news crew observed staff turning away clients at Value Gas.
Residents said LP Gas has become too expensive.
Residents who live in suburbs that are yet to be connected to the national power grid such as Pelandaba West, Mbundane, Emthunzini and parts of Cowdray Park depend on LP Gas as a source of energy for cooking.
Small-scale LP Gas vendors at community level charge exorbitantly and not accept payments in local currency.
One of the residents, Ms Tatenda Gumpo from Pelandaba West said at US$2 per kg, LP Gas was now beyond the reach of many.
“If you consider that most people are not earning foreign currency, LP Gas has become too expensive. This is so mainly for some of us who are not connected to the national power grid and depend on it for cooking. Depending on the size of the family, a 10kg LP Gas might not last you for a long time. Something needs to be done because the reality is that this energy source has become an important part of our lives. It also needs to be subsidised just like what is done with electricity,” said Ms Gumpo.
Another resident Mrs Simiso Nkomo from Nkulumane suburb said it is not only those living in houses which are not connected to power that use LP Gas.
She said even houses with a lot of tenants have resorted to LP Gas as a power saving measure.
“Zesa has put a cap on electricity where the first 300 units are cheaper but beyond that electricity is very expensive. So, we had resorted to using LP Gas as an alternative source to complement our energy sources while reducing costs. But over the past few months the price of LP Gas has continued to increase and we don’t know why Government is not regulating its price as it does with petrol and electricity. It’s no longer sustainable to use LP Gas if its price continues to rise like this,” said Mrs Nkomo. — @nqotshili.