Elita Chikwati, Harare Bureau
Government has not banned the use of containers when buying fuel but wants the public to use the appropriate containers to avert danger to people and property.
Government also noted that there were genuine cases where people were using containers to buy fuel but urged the public not to abuse the facility by hoarding the commodity for resale on the black market.
Addressing journalists yesterday, Energy and Power Development Minister Joram Gumbo yesterday said the fuel supply situation in the country was improving but was still constrained.
He expressed concern that there had been an increase in the number of people buying fuel in containers and in most cases these people were supplying the black market.
“The nation is assured that Government is doing its best to ensure continued supply of fuel throughout the country and therefore there is no need for hoarding and panic buying.
“My Ministry notes that there are genuine cases of legitimate customers that include Command Agriculture and other farmers, owners of grinding mills, schools and hospitals that require fuel for their generators and many other uses who out of necessity have to uplift fuel in containers.
“While these are all genuine cases requiring picking of fuel in containers, there are those who have resorted to hoarding fuel either for resale or future personal use. Why is it that there are many people buying fuel in containers now compared to weeks ago?” he asked.
Minister Gumbo said it was not easy to know who was buying genuinely and who was not and appealed to the public to be responsible.
“Those who never filled their tanks are now filling their tanks. Fuel is being pumped day and night from Beira into the country and international companies that bring fuel are still doing so and there is enough fuel at Msasa and Mabvuku but that fuel comes into the country bonded and is only accessed after producing foreign currency.
“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe issued $41 million for fuel last week and have continued to give us money but as they do so, at times its on Letters of Credit and these take three or four days to mature and as they mature a gap will already have been created and people will think there is no fuel,” he said.
Minister Gumbo said the oil industry was working hard to ensure there is fuel.
He said the Environmental Management Agency had allowed oil companies to uplift fuel even at night, which they never used to do.
“National Oil Infrastructure Company is open 24 hours to allow companies to collect and uplift fuel.
“The challenges are that we are lagging behind to meet the daily consumption which is 2,5 million litres of diesel per day and 1,5 million litres of petrol and what is being pumped daily from Mabvuku and Msasa at times is even higher than the consumption. Which shows something is happening,” he said.
Minister Gumbo urged those hoarding fuel in containers to desist from doing so as this contributes towards causing artificial shortages of fuel on the market.
He said the Ministry had received public reports that drums and other containers were fuelling the black market.
“In terms of Statutory Instrument 12 of 2007, fuel is classified under the Hazardous Substances, Pesticides and Toxic Substances Regulations” requiring specialised containers for carrying and storing.
It is in this spirit that my Ministry is calling on all fuel trading companies to follow the law and educate members of the public.
“We are also duty bound as a Ministry to protect consumers from unscrupulous black market fuel dealers. My Ministry is advising all parties charged with the distribution and use of fuel, to observe the law in supporting all economic and social activities requiring the use of fuel.”