THE National Oil Infrastructure Company of Zimbabwe (NOIC), Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) are making concerted efforts to resolve the biting fuel crisis, which threatens to paralyse the economy.
In the past week, there have been severe shortages of diesel and petrol, as authorities were caught flat-footed by increased economic activity, a result of more relaxed Covid-19 national lockdown measures.
Companies and individuals have had to contend with the shortages, which saw motorists spending several hours in winding queues — sometimes at dry service stations.
NOIC chair Engineer McKenzie Ncube said his office together with the RBZ and Zera had put their heads together to solve the crisis.
He said the RBZ was allocating financial resources to pay for the fuel.
Said Eng Ncube: “We are working tirelessly to resolve the fuel problem in the country. The RBZ is making foreign currency allocations and the situation will soon stabilise.”
Zera acting chief executive officer Mr Eddington Mazambani said when the national lockdown was reviewed and relaxed, allowing more companies to operate, demand for fuel increased exponentially.
“The fuel which we had as more people went back to work, was not enough, but Government is allocating more foreign currency to improve the situation,” he said.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya could not be reached for comment.
Mr Mazambani said as of Saturday May 23, the national fuel drawdown stood at 3,4 million litres of both diesel and petrol per day, against the average normal daily fuel demand of 2,5 million litres (diesel) and 1,5 million (petrol).
He said of the four to five million litres of daily national fuel consumption, 50 percent of it feeds Harare, while the remainder is divided among other parts of the country.
“There is adequate fuel at the Msasa, Mabvuku and Mutare depots, which can be released by international traders as soon as payment is done. Government is making huge strides in releasing the money to buy the fuel,” said Mr Mazambani.
“We want to go back to the situation where we were before the coronavirus lockdown (in March). Although there was a shortage, most service stations had fuel.”
He warned unscrupulous dealers diverting NOIC fuel to the black market, saying such retailers face the wrath of the law.
“There are people who want to take advantage of the situation to make a killing, but we will be on top of the situation,” said the Zera boss.
Energy and Power Development Permanent Secretary Engineer Gloria Magombo said she could not comment on the phone, preferring that questions be sent to her instead. However, she
had not responded by the time of going to print.
Figures obtained from NOIC show that from May 1 to 28 2020, fuel traders took delivery of 94,1 million litres of diesel and petrol against a monthly demand of about 150 million litres.
Fuel traders collected 62 242 091 (diesel), 30 020 210 (petrol), 1 719 470 (ethanol) and 121 598 (JET A1).
Indigenous Petroleum Association of Zimbabwe (IPAZ) chairperson Mr Aaron Chinhara blamed fuel shortages on lack of foreign currency allocations from the RBZ.
He said the central bank last issued letters of credit on March 14 2020, thereby crippling the fuel traders.
“The RBZ should stop subsidising fuel and allow private players to buy and sell fuel,” said Mr Chinhara.
“The other challenge is that if we buy fuel in US dollars we are charged excessive duty. We appeal to Government to review the duty on fuel.
“I bought 358 000 litres of petrol at US$150 000 and was charged US$169 000 duty. That is too steep and it affects the fuel supplies.”