The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) has once again issued a communiqué on new fuel prices effective today, the 26th of August 2019. What’s interesting this time around is that the new prices announced are for 15 cities with each city having its own respective fuel price tags. The fuel prices announced are maximum pump prices and they’re different for the respective cities taking into account the transport costs. This is a very interesting development because one wonders why it wasn’t like this always. Anyway, the communiqué also indicated that operators may sell at prices below the cap depending on their trading advantages.

The Fuel Price Changes

These latest fuel price hikes come barely 2 weeks after fuel prices had been hiked. On the 12th of August maximum pump prices were reviewed upwards to RTGS$9.27 and RTGS$9.09 for diesel and petrol respectively. The reasons cited were Freight On Board (FOB) price movements and revised duty regimes i.e. the statutory instrument (SI) 161 of 2019 which became effective on the 12th of August. However, from the announcement made for the recent changes it wasn’t cited why. It doesn’t come as a surprise because the prevailing economic conditions in the country have created a perpetual and regular cycle of fuel price hikes.

Victoria Falls has the highest pump prices for diesel and petrol at RTGS$10.86 and RTGS$10.56 per litre respectively. Hwange follows with RTGS$10.82 and RTGS$10.52 for diesel and petrol respectively. The lowest prices are for Harare and Mutare at RTGS$10.32 and RTGS$10.01 for diesel and petrol respectively. As you might have already noticed diesel now costs more than petrol which is a reverse of the norm.

A Look At Some Of The Public Reactions

The first one is on why ZERA chooses to post such updates late into the night. For instance, this latest update was posted on Twitter by ZERA at 2206hrs. Well, some might argue that it’s most opportune given that most areas get power back around that time. However, some feel that it’s indicative of their acknowledgement of how unacceptable their incessant fuel price hikes are. Some also said that this cycle of fuel price hikes simply means we can now expect such updates every Monday. Others even suggested that ZERA should just hike to the maximum possible prices at once since it seems they’re aiming for a particular price point. Given the new fuel prices, some have noted that commuting to work might actually be cheaper than driving to and fro work. Alex Magaisa, a popular lawyer, academic and writer took to his Twitter page to highlight some of his concerns as follows:

Negative Insinuations For Matabeleland Regions

As can be seen from the table citing the new zonal fuel price hikes you’ll notice that the cities with the highest fuel prices are Victoria Falls, Hwange, Plumtree, Beitbridge and Bulawayo. Alex Magaisa cited that there have been legitimate concerns over lack of development and discrimination of the southern and western regions. So effecting the highest fuel prices for such regions is in bad taste as it provokes sensitive matters. What Magaisa is pointing out here is of critical importance. We can’t have a fuel pricing regime that distorts the social fabric of the country by insinuating that some are different from others. This nation has a history, an ugly one at that and it mustn’t be ignored. Alex Magaisa said something pertinent, “Economic decisions are not made in a vacuum”. That hits right home because this pricing regime ZERA has put in place will definitely promote tensions between people and regions.

What Can Be Or Could Have Been Done?

Mr Magaisa strongly advocates for a level playing ground. These are my sentiments too because all along we have always seen uniform fuel prices for the whole nation. This is how it ought to always be to avoid the arousal of sensitive issues that are best left untouched. Magaisa pointed out that much of the cost of fuel is through government taxes. This means the onus to institute frameworks that promote a level playing field lies squarely on the government. He suggested that the government must consider reducing fuel taxes for those in the most affected regions to achieve that.

It would be great to hear your comments on this one. Kindly comment below with any thoughts that you have on zonal fuel pricing that ZERA has just introduced. It might seem like a small issue but it can open a can of worms. That’s why it’s crucial that the government finds a way to revert back to uniform fuel pricing for the whole country.