By MacDonald Dzirutwe
Zimbabwe’s energy regulator has raised petrol and diesel prices by up to 16%, the fourth increase this year, after the finance minister said fuel was considerably cheaper than in neighbouring countries.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the biggest fuel price hike in January, a 150% increase, which sparked deadly protests by financially struggling Zimbabweans that left more than a dozen people dead after an army clampdown.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said late on Friday that effective Saturday, petrol would cost 6.10 Zimbabwe dollars ($0.70) a litre, up from 5.26, while the price of diesel had been increased 13% to 5.84 Zimbabwe dollars.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube was quoted in a daily newspaper on Thursday as saying he would be happy if the price of fuel was equivalent to $1 per litre.
While Ncube wants fuel prices to reflect import costs, many Zimbabweans can barely afford to pay them when the unemployment exceeds 80% and the entry-level wage for a government employee is about $49 a month – enough to buy a car tyre.
But with no sign of an end to rolling power cuts in the southern African country, demand for fuel has risen as businesses resort to more expensive diesel-powered generators.
Analysts say this is increasing the price of doing business, with companies likely to pass the cost to consumers, who are already grappling with inflation of nearly 100%.
There were long queues at service stations selling fuel early on Saturday.
Hopes that living standards would soon improve under Mnangagwa, who came to power after Robert Mugabe was removed in a coup in 2017, have not been realised.
Instead, Zimbabweans are frustrated by daily power outages lasting up to 17 hours and severe shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, bread, and medicines. Reuters