Fuel shortages have hit us once again. The past week saw several stock outs as long queues resurfaced around the country. As usual, the black market took advantage of the shortages, but their prices are always prohibitive. Certainly, the fuel situation in our country calls for comprehensive interventions.
Truth be told, we have never fully recovered from the fuel shortages that we experienced last year. Many thought that an almost 150% fuel price hike would help improve supply but that is not the case. Harare and other cities and towns continue to be characterised by long queues almost daily. And these got worse in the last week. Foreign currency shortages are one reason why our fuel is always in short supply. Players in the industry rely on Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) allocations. Evidently, the allocations are inadequate as the RBZ must also cater for other crucial sectors of the economy.
More recently, government allowed big companies to import their own fuel but, the situation on the ground has not changed much. So desperate is the situation that government was once forced to admit that a logistical glitch had resulted in the ordering of less diesel. This was to be rectified quickly according to government sources. The queues however are still with us.
Before getting to the bottom of our fuel crisis, Cyclone Idai struck, leaving a trail of extensive destruction in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It is believed that the Campanhiado De Pipeline Mozambique – Zimbabwe (CPMZ) control room in Beira was not spared by the cyclone. This has had an effect on the pumping of fuel to Zimbabwe. Energy and Power Development Minister Joram Gumbo assured the nation that despite this setback, Zimbabwe currently has enough fuel. “I understand that the control room at Beira was affected. We, however, have enough stocks in the country and I am told repairs at Beira may take a week,” he said last week. It should be borne in mind that government has assured us that we have enough fuel several times in the past, only to find ourselves in long, winding queues over and over again. Not many still trust government on this issue. Some are even speculating that the damage in Beira might be much more than what we have been made aware of.
Come to think of it, if we have enough fuel in the country, why do we continue to experience stock outs? Could there be another problem resulting in the fuel failing to reach our service stations? Panic buying has sometimes been blamed. Again, a sign that something is wrong and there is some kind of uncertainty in our fuel supply situation. In such cases, the black market thrives. This has its drawbacks as fuel quality is difficult to monitor once it leaves the forecourt. In addition, transport costs always react to fuel prices and the more we depend on the black market, the greater the impact on fuel and transport costs. This is not only unsustainable but it is also unfair on the already overburdened citizens.
Whether it is a logistical glitch or something else, fuel shortages continue to rear their ugly head. Many businesses are adversely affected by shortages. Time is wasted in fuel queues and productivity is constrained. A lasting solution is needed.