Fuel Crisis Breeds Black Market Again
10 June 2020
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ILLEGAL fuel dealers have flooded Bulawayo’s city centre capitalising on the shortage of the commodity at service stations by charging in local currency.

A Chronicle news crew yesterday took to the streets of Bulawayo and observed several illegal fuel dealers conducting their unlawful business.

The fuel shortages come at a time when petrol prices were last week upwardly reviewed by $7,19 to $28,96 per litre although operators can still sell below the cap depending on their trading advantages. Diesel prices marginally went up to $24,93 from $21,52 per litre.

Illegal fuel dealers are selling the commodity in quantities of five litres for US$5 per 5 litres or R100, which translates to US$1 or R20 per litre. It appears the illegal fuel dealers are directly competing with services stations selling the commodity in foreign currency.

Petrol at service stations selling in forex is retailing between US$1,05 and US$1,25 while diesel goes for between US$1 and US$1,13.

Chronicle news crew observed that illegal fuel dealers have a rather homogenous way of sending a signal to potential clients as they operate mostly near service stations.

Whenever, they spot a motorist approaching from a distance, they flag them down using a funnel, particularly at night.

However, during the day, they have the temerity to boldly approach any car parked near a service station for the purposes of soliciting for clients.

A Chronicle news crew visited selected points in the CBD where fuel is sold on the blanket market and posing as clients, spoke to some dealers who revealed how they acquire those large volumes of the commodity.

One dealer who only identified himself as Teddy operating between 4th and 5th Avenues along Herbert Chitepo Street said he gets his supplies from a truck driver who plies the Zimbabwe-South Africa route.

“I have a truck driver that I deal with and he usually comes to Bulawayo on Wednesdays. He works for a cross-border transport company that delivers fuel from South Africa and each time he comes, we drain undetectable volumes of fuel from the tanker,” he said.

Teddy said the stolen fuel is then sold on the streets and the driver gets his share.

Another fuel dealer operating at corner JMN Nkomo Street/5th Avenue, who however, declined to be named claimed he was well connected to several petrol attendants in the city who help him get fuel without hassles.

“I buy the fuel from service stations here because I have a lot of connections in the city. Whenever, they receive supplies, I make sure I bribe these petrol attendants so that they facilitate the deals of getting fuel without any difficulties,” he said.

“We have no choice; the economy is biting which is why you are seeing me here in the streets selling fuel.”

Chronicle went to another selling point situated between Fife Street and 15th Avenue near a fuel station where the news crew noticed a motorist fueling his car from a stationary pick up, which was carrying three drums of fuel.

Soon after fueling the car, the fuel dealers got suspicious when they spotted the Chronicle news crew and drove away from their selling point.

It is alleged that unscrupulous fuel retailers are allegedly diverting large volumes of the commodity to the underground markets, causing shortages on the formal market.

According to the National Oil Infrastructure Company of Zimbabwe (NOIC), the country’s daily demand for both petrol and diesel currently stands at five million litres.

It is suspected that fuel retailers could be hoarding fuel for speculative purposes or diverting the commodity to either the black market or service stations that sell in foreign currency.

Speculation is rife that some fuel operators are selling less fuel to motorists on the open market, before channelling most of their stocks to the black market where it is sold in forex.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) acting chief executive officer Mr Eddington Mazambani said the trade of fuel outside registered service stations and other licensed businesses is illegal.

He said Zera will intensify surveillance with other Government agencies to curb the practice.

“Zera inspectors are on the ground checking on compliance and enforcing standards where possible, to ensure fuel is dispensed according to laid down procedures and practice. The black market is illegal. Anyone selling fuel on the black market is warned that the long arm of the law will catch up with them,” said Mr Mazambani.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube warned illegal fuel dealers, saying they risk prosecution.

“We have noticed that there is a mushrooming of illegal fuel dealers at several points in the CBD, notably at Fife Street and 15th Avenue, JMN Nkomo Street and 5th Avenue as well as Herbert Chitepo Street and 4th Avenue among other areas. We therefore would like to warn those people as they risk being arrested and we have deployed our officers and they have intensified the patrols,” he said.

“We also warn members of the public against buying fuel from the black market as it is not only an offence but a risk as it can damage their cars as these people have a habit of selling contaminated fuel.” 

-State Media