By Nyasha Chingono
GOVERNMENT is mulling fuel rationing as the country reels from worsening shortages and growing queues in the middle of the festive season, an energy sector official has said.
This comes as Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya yesterday told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Energy and Power Development that Zimbabwe had enough fuel to service the country’s growing vehicle population, arguing that fuel queues were a product of panic buying. Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) acting chief executive, Eddington Mazambani told the same committee yesterday that rationing was the only way to manage the worsening fuel crisis.
Mazambani who told the committee a fortnight ago that Zimbabwe was running dry as the US$60 million disbursed by government had already run out and said Zera would be working with operators to enforce rationing.
“The other option, Mr Chairman, that we might have to consider as a country, although not desirable, is rationing because we don’t have the product. It’s not a desirable solution, but with the situation we have at the moment (we should) try and have a demand-side management,” Mazambani said.
Mazambani said the energy regulator was mulling a proposal to enforce rationing and possibly impose a ban on jerry cans and drums at fuel stations.
“We might have to do a paper to recommend for the introduction of rationing unless the situation improves. We also need to work together with the operators to try and contain issues of containers, drums and jerry cans. If you go to any service station with the product, you see more of drums and jerry cans,” he added.
Three weeks ago, government allocated US$60 million to import 100 million litres which ran out in a week as part of the money was to clear arrears for fuel supplies rendered to local dealers.
Zera warned that Zimbabwe would plunge into a fuel crisis if foreign currency is not made available.
Suppliers have chosen to hold on to their fuel at bonded warehouses in Harare’s Msasa industrial area, demanding payment upfront, plunging the country into a fuel crisis which has seen motorists spend over 48 hours in queues. With the situation not getting any better, Zimbabwe is likely to endure a dry festive season as fuel woes continue.
Zera says a long-term solution to the fuel crisis would be to revamp the defunct public transport system so as to reduce the demand for fuel or use Zimbabwe as an inland port for other landlocked countries like Zambia, DRC, and Malawi.
According to Mangudya fuel gobbles 45% of total foreign currency receipts annually, but allayed fears of fuel shortages during the festive season.
“We are here to assure you Mr Chairman that the facilities, the measure that we have put in place are continuous and that we are going to have fuel being delivered on our service stations,” Mangudya said.
Government entered into a US$40 million per month deal for the next 14 months with Trafigura to supply 14 million litres per week. Trafigura supplies Puma and Petrotrade, among other fuel dealers. Engen also supplies seven million litres per week to the local market on a continuous basis worth US$25 million per month. Glencorp supplies Total outlets, 10 million litres per week up to 2020 at US$32,2 million per month.
Zimbabwe requires two million litres of petrol and three million litres diesel per day.
The unavailability of fuel in recent days had also seen commuter omnibuses hiking fares by almost double, while fuel dealers were charging about US$15 for five litres of petrol and US$12 for five litres of diesel.
Mangudya blamed the spike in demand for fuel to the growing vehicle population in the country which has jumped 50% to 1,8 million from last year.