Friday, 6 March 2020

NO US DOLLARS, NO FUEL


FUEL is readily available for motorists buying in foreign currency, but not for those using local currency who have to queue for hours to access the commodity.

This supply situation of diesel and petrol has exposed social imbalances as those with foreign currency find it easy to access fuel while the rest spend long hours in queues, in some cases failing to get it. Long, winding queues at service stations selling in local currency and people waiting for public transport for hours drive home the impact of the fuel shortage.

In Bulawayo on Thursday most fuel stations selling the commodity in local currency did not have the product except for Engen and Total service stations but by 1PM it had run out. Yesterday motorists were queuing at most service stations hoping there would be deliveries. The situation was different for those selling in forex as they had short or no queues at all as motorists refilled their tanks with much ease.

Motorists told Chronicle that while buying fuel in local currency is much cheaper, some of them were forced to buy at service stations charging in foreign currency as it was convenient.

Mr Ozias Moyo who was queuing at Engen Service Station which sells in local currency at the corner of Fife Avenue and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street said he had joined the queue at 8AM but had not refueled by 1PM.

He was not sure if he was going to get the petrol as there were claims that it was running out.

“Right now, my tank is empty that is why you are seeing me pushing my vehicle while in the queue. I should have been in Maphisa at 10AM where I have business interests but I’m still here.  It’s a great inconvenience.  My business has been greatly affected. But we are left with no option but to queue as we have no access to foreign currency. In case I get the foreign currency, it would be too little to buy enough fuel,” said Mr Moyo. 

Ms Beatrice Sibanda said the situation is even worse for women as some men jump the queue.

At the Zuva Service Station which sells in forex along Leopold Takawira Road, diesel was going for US$1,36 but there was no queue. They were waiting for a petrol delivery. The fuel station has pumps for those buying in local currency, with petrol pegged at $20,30 per litre while petrol was $19,04 diesel, but nothing was available.

At Busuman Service Station along Fife Street between 14 and 15 Avenues there was a continuous flow of traffic as motorists refilled their vehicles with much ease at US$1,25 per litre for both petrol and diesel. A motorist who only identified himself as Ranger and was refilling at Busuman said he opts for the service station as he had heard that the fuel lasts longer.

“The reason why we are buying from this station is because there are no queues and the fuel last longer. For instance, if I buy 10 litres here, the fuel comes from Botswana it’s not blended and it can last me three and a half days but if I buy the ethanol blended fuel from other stations it just lasts me two days. This also means I will not be buying from other recently licenced foreign currency selling stations as they are selling blended fuel even if they do not have queues,” said Ranger.

Chronicle could not immediately verify his claims. However, he said he was able to access foreign currency as his operations are in the mining sector.

There was also no queue at Flo Service Station that sells in forex along Khami Road where petrol and diesel were being sold for US$1,18 per litre.

The discrepancies in the price of fuel sold in forex was attributed to the absence of a gazetted price in forex.

Asked why there was no gazetted price for fuel being sold in forex, Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi said Government is working on a framework to address that.

“We have set up the Direct Fuel Import arrangement which principally deals with those that import fuel directly. A framework has been developed but in addition to that we have a regulation that will soon kick in to ensure that there is regulatory clarity in this area. The publication is imminent,” said Adv Chasi.

For those who do not have foreign currency, trying to get fuel is now a huge inconvenience.

In Gwanda motorists are struggling to access fuel which is in short supply and some are forced to buy it from the black market in forex. There is no licensed service station selling in forex in the mining town.

A motorist, Mr Leonard Sibanda said: “The fuel situation in this town is so bad that it’s either there is no fuel at all at all service stations or there will be only one service station with fuel and there will be long queues. I have opted to buy fuel from the black market which is going for R110 for 5 litres as the situation is unpleasant. This situation has to be addressed as soon as possible.”

Ms Faith Shumba said when fuel was there it was difficult to buy it as most service stations were demanding cash.

In Gweru, fuel was readily available at service stations like Flo in the central business district and Clemond in Woodlands Park which sell the commodity in United States dollars There wasn’t any fuel at service stations that sell in local currency in the CBD. Such service stations like Zuva said they last received supplies more than a week ago. 

In Victoria Falls only Zuva service station had fuel on Thursday which was being sold in United States dollars. A litre of petrol was being sold for US$1.25.

In Plumtree, fuel is in short supply both at service stations and on the black market.

Fuel on the black market was also in short supply with dealers saying they were having problems getting forex to source the commodity in Botswana.

In Beitbridge, some people have resorted to crossing into Musina to buy the commodity. There are also three service stations that sell fuel in forex.

Speaking in the National Assembly during the Wednesday’s Question and Answer session, Power and Energy Development Deputy Minister Magna Mudyiwa said the decision to blend fuel with ethanol, was meant to increase volumes.

“I think we are aware that we are having a serious shortage of fuel in the country. So, if we do not blend our fuel we will need much more forex to buy the fuel. So that is why we had a policy to do the blending,” she said. “Currently, we are blending at five percent, at some point we went to as far as 20 percent. We do not have enough fuel in the country so there is no choice for motorists to choose whether they want to use the blended fuel or the unblended.” 

Deputy Minister Mudyiwa said while Government was addressing problems in the sector, foreign currency challenges continue to hinder adequate supplies.  Chronicle



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