Fuel queues are getting even longer in the second city as government bureaucrats struggle to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Motorists are once again spending long hours in queues at pump stations dotted across the city, waiting to fuel their vehicles.
Supplies have been erratic, with only a few service stations getting deliveries.
Of the few, some are selling in foreign currency — which most motorists are unable to access. For those selling in hard currency, petrol is fetching US$1,27 or R25 per litre. Diesel is being sold at US$1,20 or R20 per litre. Forecourts in the second city mainly get their supplies by road from the Msasa gantry in Harare.
In the past when the National Railways of Zimbabwe used to operate an efficient service, rail was their preferred mode of transport.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Energy and Power Development minister Joram Gumbo said petroleum companies were withholding supplies as they are still digesting the impact of the Monetary Policy Statement announced by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya about a fortnight ago.
“The announcement of (floating) exchange rates in the monetary policy resulted in a wait-and-see attitude amongst most companies, and the fuel sector was not spared, and this has created some gaps. This explains the shortages being experienced,” said Gumbo.
The Energy minister also blamed fake news being peddled on social media for contributing to the shortages.
This followed social media posts to the effect that fuel prices were due to go up soon.
“Reports of fuel price hikes to $5,50 per litre that were being churned on social media last week also resulted in panic buying among the public and created these unnecessary shortages; queues started forming again,” he said.
Gumbo said while his ministry has done its part in availing fuel in the country, a number of impediments were making it difficult for motorists to access diesel and petrol.
“We are causing problems for ourselves by spreading the wrong information. Zimbabwe is not dry, there is enough fuel. The ministry of Energy and Power Development has made all necessary arrangements to provide fuel for the country.
The problems that are there are only logistical and the issue of forex (foreign currency). As for foreign currency, it is known that the country’s economy is not performing well – everything is being imported. The RBZ has therefore had to allocate forex on priority basis,” he said.
“If you look around the country there are many cars (on the road) and some of them are unproductive. I do not lie; I report truthfully, I give a weekly report and there is enough fuel supply in the country.”
Owing to the fuel shortages, government is working on a new set of regulations to allow holders of free funds to import fuel in a bid to boost current supplies.
In 2015, government amended Statutory Instrument (SI) 171 to allow members of the public to import up to 2 000 litres of fuel per month for personal use but the legal instrument was repealed two years later through SI 122 of 2017, which stipulated that only companies licensed in terms of Section 29 of the Petroleum Act are allowed to import fuel.
Meanwhile, the second city will run dry for three days this week due to repair works at the Ncema Water Works. Bongiwe Ngwenya, council’s spokesperson, confirmed the development, saying council had been working on the pipeline at Ncema for a while.
Bulawayo has been experiencing erratic water supplies for the past weeks which saw the municipality introducing a 48-hour water shedding regime. This was necessitated by outstanding repair works at the booster stations, located at the dams.
Last month, the city council informed residents that water consumption had remained very high despite the shedding programme. A message circulating on social media is calling on residents to fill up their containers as there would be no water supplies between today and Friday.
According to the message, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) would only be able to supply some parts of the city.
“Please be advised that there will be a three-day shutdown of water supply from Bulawayo Council Ncema Water Works as from 05/03/19 to 08/03/19. You are urged to fill in your reservoir containers, although we will be having some supply from Zinwa reservoir but is not enough to supply the whole town,” reads part of the message.
Ngwenya has distanced the city from the message saying council has no such arrangement with Zinwa.