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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fuel shortage to persist
By Staff Reporters
Friday, 21 January 2011 17:33

HARARE - Commuters should brace for transport woes and steep fares as the shortage of fuel is set to persist despite assurances by the government that it will release funds to improve supplies.

A survey by Daily News showed anxious and desperate motorists who are yet to understand the cause of the shortage which they thought had been ended by the formation of the inclusive government.

Long and winding queues of desperate commuter omnibuses formed at the very few filling stations that had diesel which has been in short supply since the beginning of the week.

The chaotic scenes at service stations in the western business districts of Harare, especially along Chinhoyi and Mbuya Nehanda streets painted a familiar picture of the last decade when Zimbabwe grappled with fuel shortage casued by the collapsed currency and economic meltdown.

The fuel crunch which started at the beginning of this week has seen motorists queuing at service stations mainly for diesel while fares for public transport have been hiked.

Pump price for diesel shot up this week with a litre of diesel rising from $1.20 to about $1.42.

Energy minister Elton Mangoma told the media earlier in the week that the shortage of fuel was caused by the tax authorities raid on National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) accounts.

NOCZIM is the state fuel procurement body but has been struggling with corruption and competence issues before its recent unbundling.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) garnished $35million from NOCZIM for unpaid taxes.

But some independent fuel dealers who have been traditionally purchasing fuel from neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, have blamed “unorthodox”
conduct by NOCZIM which resulted in disagreements with one dealer who lost his supplies that had been brought via NOCZIM.

Zimbabwe has no direct access to the high seas and relies on either bulk deliveries by rail and road despite having a pipeline which was dormant for more than a decade.

To improve the supply of fuel, the Feruka pipeline must have bulk supplies but the government does not have the money to immediately commence bulk purchases.

But Mangoma, while admitting that the government was doing “everything possible” it can to improve the fuel supply, ruled out an immediate bail out.

“By the end of this month the situation will get back to normal. We are trying to do what is necessary to avert the situation,” Mangoma told the Daily News. “I cannot get into the details of what treasury is doing.”

In light of the shortages, commuter omnibus drivers have warned that they will continue with their steep fares.

Most commuter omnibuses have raised their fares by 100 percent to cushion themselves from the fuel price increases.

The sharp rise in fuel has seen some commuter omnibuses increasing their fares for local routes from $0.50 to $1 dollar and $1 to $2, respectively.

Tapiwa Nyagudza, a commuter omnibus driver who plies the city-Mabvuku route warned that if the current fuel shortages persist, they will continue to increase their fares.

“If we charge 50cents to Mabvuku, that trip will cash in $9 yet we are buying diesel at $10 from the black market,” he said.

Shortages of fuel and the subsequent hikes are reminiscent to the pre-unity government days.

At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic problems, the country was crippled by an acute shortage of fuel that adversely key sectors of the economy such as agriculture and mining.

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