Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
HALF of the fuel on the market is procured through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) financial facility and should be sold in local currency, but some unscrupulous garage owners who are benefitting from the Government facility are refusing to accept the local currency and are selling all of their fuel stocks in foreign currency.
The RBZ makes weekly foreign currency allocations to fuel importers who are then mandated to sell the fuel in local currency, among other currencies in the multi currency basket being used in the country. Sources said service stations that benefit from RBZ funds and go on to refuse to accept the local currency are violating Statutory Instrument 127 of 2021 (SI 127 of 2021), which details civil penalties for those who infringe the Foreign Exchange Act (22:05) and the Banking and Use Promotion Act (24:24).
Only service stations that source their own foreign currency and fuel through the Direct Fuel Imports facility are mandated to sell in forex only. In the event that fuel dealers are using both facilities to source foreign currency to import fuel, the amount of fuel from the RBZ facility has to be available to motorists with local currency as well.
However, almost all garages in the country are selling the commodity in foreign currency making it difficult for a majority of the motorists to buy the fuel since they receive their salaries in local currency. Motorists told Sunday News that they are forced to buy foreign currency on the black market and then go on to buy fuel.
Sunday News discovered that despite 49 percent of fuel on the market being sourced through the RBZ facility, garages in Bulawayo and other towns and cities were not selling this portion in local currency. Energy and Power Development Minister Soda Zhemu told Sunday News that they have mandated the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) to keep track of the fuel procured through the RBZ financing facilities.
“We are also cognisant of the fact that we have some unscrupulous traders who are getting fuel through the RBZ financing facilities but they then go onto the market and sell it in US dollars. Those concerns have been raised and we are taking care of that through a system that we have now put in place to deal with them. We have now mandated Zera to keep track of all the fuel that would have been procured using RBZ financing facilities and then provide the Ministry a report on a weekly basis,” said Minister Zhemu.
He said about 49 percent of the fuel that was available on the market was through the RBZ facility, which means that motorists should manage to purchase fuel in local currency if they so wish. Minister Zhemu said members of the public have been complaining about the unavailability of fuel in local currency on the market.
“It actually starts from the procurement itself. We are having two schemes by which fuel can be procured. There is a Direct Fuel Import (DFI) scheme on which the participants in the fuel industry will be having their own funds which they are using to procure fuel from outside the country. These ones are then allowed to sell their fuel in foreign currency.”
Minister Zhemu said participants in the DFI scheme do not get any support from the RBZ financing facilities because they are using their own funds. He said those who are benefitting from the RBZ financing facility have to provide proof and the service station should indicate the bank in which the funds from sales would have been remitted. Such garages are then sold foreign currency by the central bank at the official exchange rate.
“Zera requires that the service station provides a bank statement as proof that the fuel would have been sold in RTGS so this is the system that we are using at the moment,” he said.
Minister Zhemu said Zera has been swift to immediately track and keep records of the fuel collected at the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOIC) depots. He said with the list of those companies procuring fuel through the RBZ financing facilities, Zera will do the investigations to ascertain those abusing the facility.
“Once the investigations are done, we shall provide the nation with a statement as to the findings and also whether the facility was abused or not,” said Minister Zhemu.