Blame Mthuli for fuel shortages: Minister

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

Energy and Power Development deputy minister Magna Mudyiwa has blamed the Finance ministry for the fuel shortages in the country.

The previous Energy minister, Joram Gumbo, also earlier this year blamed Treasury and the central bank for the fuel shortages.

“We do have enough fuel at our depots in Mabvuku and Msasa, but it is bonded. This means that we need to pay before we can withdraw that fuel. We are discussing with the RBZ [Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe] who issue letters of credit to fuel traders so that they access the fuel,” Mudyiwa said in response to parliamentarians who demanded an explanation over fuel shortages during a Parliament sitting last week.

“I can assure the nation that we do have enough fuel at our depots, save for the lines of credit. If the process is expedited, then the fuel can be available. We are doing everything within our means to make sure that we have enough fuel for our motorists during the holiday.

“I think the arrangement of payment between the RBZ and the traders is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance. Our mandate as a ministry is to ensure that we have got enough fuel at our depot. The details about the issues of payment can be referred to the Ministry of Finance”.

According to official statistics, Zimbabwe has around 1,4 million vehicles, which require on average three and two million litres of diesel and petrol, daily.

However, due to the country struggling to generate foreign currency to pay, most operators struggle to access the fuel.

This is happening even though government earlier this year liberalised the fuel market by allowing oil operators to source their own foreign currency to make direct imports, instead of relying on RBZ allocations.

According to the RBZ’s September 2019 monthly economic review, the country spent US$97,2 million on fuel imports, up 16,4% from the previous month’s US$83,5 million.

“We were informed that government liberalised the fuel market. What then they simply did through the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority was to benchmark the prices and there is a margin of profit. One garage can differ from the other by a few cents, but the fuel market is liberalised,” Mutare South legislator Nyasha Chikwinya said.

“Fuel suppliers were told to go and procure their foreign currency on the market at the interbank exchange rate. Where is the issue of letters of credit coming from because what it takes us to is that now, the RBZ is responsible for issuing out foreign currency when government policy says they are supposed to procure on the interbank market rate. I need the minister to respond to us on the issues of letters of credit.”

Mudyiwa responded saying her ministry’s job was only to make sure there was enough fuel in the market.

“Go to our depots, there is enough fuel which is bonded, but the details of payment is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance,” she said.

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