BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
THE Direct Fuel Import (DFI) group, which represents indigenous oil firms that have mounted legal challenges against the government to force policy changes, this week warned the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) to create a fair environment for its members or face more time in the courts.
The DFI group has always complained against policies that protect big foreign petroleum firms.
“I would like to urge our regulatory authority, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, to put in place regulatory requirements that promote local players,” DFI president Noma Mutenje said.
“It is a shame to be seen crafting policies that favour foreign companies. We do not want to confront them (Zera) in the courts as we did in the past.”
The remarks came after a standoff last year with Zera, when it announced a new licensing regime for fuel importers.
The regime compelled players to produce proof that potential licence holders had previously imported at least 10 million litres of petroleum products.
Zera also required players to have at least 15 service stations and to pay a ZW$30 million (US$341 000) performance bond, which the DFI group rejected as “outrageous”.
It said Zera was protecting big international fuel firms.
After the impasse, Zera backed down and revised the demands.
It said instead of 15 service stations, players could now produce proof of operating three service stations.
Mutenje, who spoke as Allied Petroleum, a domestic oil firm, expanded into Hwange this week, said Allied was a perfect example that local companies could flourish under a fair regime.
“It is also a shining example of those who follow and realise the beliefs of the group that local players should spread their tentacles far and wide not just in the country but throughout our great continent. This is our continent and we must not allow (foreigners) to dominate this sensitive and strategic industry,” he said.
“In a very harsh and stifling environment, Allied Petroleum has achieved this great milestone of expansion.”
Allied chief executive officer Mike Tapfuma Chikutu said the company was committed to playing its part in the national and regional economy of Zimbabwe and will work tirelessly and relentlessly to live by its vibrant and aggressive motto “We never run dry”.
“Our initial understanding before we joined the industry was that a global village was a good place to be. This was because our African understanding of the word ‘village’ was that it was a harmonious place to be, where all villagers looked after each other’s interests,” he said.
“If you lose a cow, someone could find it and give it back to you. But we learnt very quickly that the global village within our industry was not a friendly one. Some of the bellicose villagers were predators armed to the teeth with ancient capital.
“Capital raised way back in the days of slavery, capital from unjust colonial enterprises of the past. These villagers are always ready and willing to swallow the thinner villagers using their ancient power mercilessly.”