Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
ENERGY and Power Development Minister, Dr Joram Gumbo has warned fuel traders and filling stations that are withholding fuel and those supplying the black market that they risk losing their trading licences.
In an interview, Dr Gumbo said Police and Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) have since descended on rogue fuel dealers and are making intermittent raids.
He said police officers and ZERA officials have been deployed all over the country carry out random raids on service stations.
Dr Gumbo said Government has discovered that some service stations are withholding fuel to supply the black market and pirate taxis.
“We are suspecting that some of the fuel shortages might be political. What we have noticed is that pirate taxis and public transport operators are also hoarding and stocking fuel. The spiking demand could have been triggered by the festive season and holiday makers travel.
“There is adequate fuel in the country this festive season. For instance cities like Harare and Gweru, there are short queues which show there is enough fuel,” he said.
Said Dr Gumbo: “As Government we are monitoring the situation after receiving reports that there are fuel traders and service stations that are withholding fuel. I would want to warn them that they risk losing their trading licences.
“We have deployed police and ZERA to go around conducting intermittent raids on service stations and fuel traders. Those that are found stocking a lot of fuel will have their licences withdrawn. We have deployed some in Kwekwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Harare and other cities and small towns. We are not joking and there won’t be any sacred cows.”
Dr Gumbo said fuel was available but saboteurs were behind the artificial shortages.
A snap survey by The Chronicle showed that some service stations usually withhold fuel and sell to a few motorists. Last week, there was chaos as motorists besieged Zuva filling station along Lobengula Avenue in Gweru after getting a tip off that a fuel tanker had offloaded but the owner Mr Bourbon Bhula was allegedly refusing to sell the fuel.
Police had to come to his rescue.
Contacted for comment, Mr Bhula refused to entertain the media.
Meanwhile, Government will cancel route permits for transport operators whose drivers are routinely caught flouting road traffic laws and has deployed police and Vehicle Inspection Department officers to ensure compliance this festive season, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza has said.
Minister Matiza said police would be out in full force to rid the roads of defective vehicles and warned against drunken driving and overloading of buses which are the major causes of traffic accidents.
“I would like to appeal to operators of public service vehicles as well as private motorists not to use defective and unroadworthy vehicles,”’ said Minister Matiza.
“In this respect, I want to advise would-be offenders that the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Vehicle Inspection Department will be on the lookout for defective vehicles throughout the holiday period,” he said.
“I thus urge you to provide a safe and timeous service which should see everybody being transported to their destination safely. An operator who has been issued with an operator’s licence and route authorities has obligations to comply with the law,” said the Minister.
“He/she is obliged to provide services authorised in terms of the route authority and to keep to stipulated time tables. Overloading of buses will not be tolerated, either.”
Minister said transport operators should not overwork their drivers, which leads to fatigue.
“Operators are also urged to desist from the habit of over-working their drivers resulting in failure to adhere to their time tables. On their part, drivers should stick to the regulated speed limits as speeding has been found to be one of the major causes of fatal accidents,” he said.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol is a punishable offence and is totally condemned. My Ministry will not hesitate to cancel route authorities for those operators whose drivers are constantly caught on the wrong side of the traffic laws and disregard for the sanctity of human life.”
Minister Matiza said proper red reflective triangles should always be used in case of a breakdown to increase visibility. He said those who failed to adhere to this requirement would be dealt with in terms of the Road Traffic Act and Road Motor Transportation Act.
He urged people to plan their trips early to avoid night driving.
Minister Matiza said motorists also needed to be courteous to other road users. To avoid incidents of road rage, he said, motorists should always communicate their intentions to other road users in advance.
The country has experienced several fatal traffic accidents involving public transport in the past few months.
Most of the accidents have been attributed to human error and mechanical faults, notably the Rusape bus disaster where 46 people were killed when Bolt Cutter and Smart Express buses side-swapped at the 166-kilometre peg on Harare-Mutare highway early last month.
Witnesses said the accident occurred after the speeding Harare-bound Smart bus tried to overtake two haulage trucks at a curve.
In August 13 people died on the spot while 23 others were injured when a Chawasarira bus collided head-on with a commuter omnibus near the 152km peg after the Kadoma tollgate along the Harare-Bulawayo highway.
The accident occurred near Muzvezve River Bridge, about 10km outside Kadoma City at around 9am when the kombi, which was coming from Empress Mine, encroached into the lane of the oncoming bus.
In the latest accident last week, 17 people died when two commuter omnibuses collided head near Juru Growth Point along the Harare-Nyamapanda highway.