Zim assures Libyans of fair fuel deal

Dumisani Muleya

THE Libyans who were recently in the country to negotiate the stalled US$360 million fuel deal with Tamoil Trading Ltd have left with assurances that they will acquire a

significant equity of the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) in Petrozim.

Official sources said government had allowed the Libyans to buy 25% of Noczim’s 50% equity in Petrozim which is jointly-owned by Lonrho and the state fuel procurement agency.

Sources said fuel from Libya was now on its way but that steady supplies would depend on Noczim’s ability to pay US$5 million to Tamoil every month. Zimbabwe needs US$40 million a month to buy fuel but government has failed to raise this amount to stem the four-year-old fuel crisis.

Efforts to source fuel from Kuwait, Angola, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Iran as well as South Africa, Nigeria and Botswana have failed due to government’s failure to pay.

Noczim and Tamoil have of late been deadlocked over the prices of the state’s petrol-chemical industry assets that the Libyans want to buy.

The Libyans are trying to buy Petrozim’s pipeline between Mutare and Harare and storage tanks in Msasa before they can resume fuel supplies. The Mutare-Harare pipeline supplies fuel to Zimbabwe from Beira in Mozambique.

Although the Libyans have been promised Noczim’s 25% shareholding in Petrozim, the deal has not yet been sealed as Lonrho, a key stakeholder in Petrozim, must approve the sale. Lonrho has pre-emptive rights in Petrozim.

As reported in the Zimbabwe Independent two weeks ago, government has agreed with the Libyans that the price for the pipeline is US$60 million.

Initially the Libyans offered US$48 million while government valued the pipeline at US$100 million.

Sources yesterday said there was a possibility that Lonrho would come up with its own price for the pipeline. This could scuttle the deal. The Libyans were reportedly prepared to take over the whole Lonrho shareholding to gain control over Petrozim.

After acquiring the assets that they need, the Libyans want to establish a joint venture company, Tamoil-Zimbabwe, with Noczim to enter the market on a stronger footing.

The Libyans want to acquire the fuel pipeline, storage facilities, service stations and rail loading facilities at Feruka to make Zimbabwe their distribution centre in southern Africa, currently dominated by Iranians, Saudis and Kuwaitis.