By Andile Tshuma
Long winding queues have resurfaced at fuel stations in Bulawayo with motorists expressing frustration over the situation during the lockdown.
Service station staffers who spoke to Chronicle yesterday said they had been instructed to sell limited quantities of fuel as they were hoarding the rest of their supplies in anticipation of a rumoured fuel price hike.
An attendant in Belmont said his boss had told him to only sell 5 000 litres out of 47 000 litres which was available.
“We have more than 33 000 litres petrol and about 14 000 litres of diesel now although we are expecting more deliveries. So, my bosses have said we must not sell more than a combined 5 000 litres of both petrol and diesel as fuel is expected to go up.
“If it goes up and we sell at the new price, we will make a profit, so right now, we are only using one pump for petrol and one pump for diesel. On a normal day we use three or four pumps for each,” he said.
On Tuesday last week, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) reduced the price of petrol and diesel by 77 cents and 68 cents respectively owing to a fall in Free on Board (FOB) prices and the revised duty regime.
Zera said the new prices would see a litre of blend petrol (E5) retailing at $21 while diesel would sell at $20,84 per litre. Prior to the review, the price of petrol was pegged at $21,77 while diesel was at $21, 52 per litre.
Chronicle observed yesterday that there were long queues at most service stations, which had petrol and were selling in local currency. Service stations that sold in forex had few vehicles waiting for service.
Motorists said they feared that the pre-lockdown fuel queues were back as more vehicles returned on the roads following a slight relaxation of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Some said they feared a fuel price increase, which was the norm after fuel shortages.
A motorist, Mr Sitshoni Donga, who was in a queue along Luveve Road in Entumbane suburb said he was puzzled about what caused the fuel shortage and long queues during the lockdown when there were few vehicles on the roads.
“I have been in the queue for more than four hours now. There were more than 50 cars ahead of me but the queue is moving slowly. I wonder why we are having queues during lockdown.
“Kombis which are always blamed for chaos and confusion are not even there and we usually say they are the reason for fuel queues. They are not on the road but we still have long queues,” he said.
Mr Nqobani Mthunzi from Nkulumane 12 suburb said Government must make a provision for essential services workers to access fuel without having to queue at service stations.
“I cannot be rushing for a patient and also be expected to wait in line with everyone else. There is nothing special about me as a person, but that patient waiting to be attended to is special. All life is precious and every hour I spend in a queue may be the defining moment of whether she lives or not,” he said.
Ms Patience Nkomo from Southwold Suburb, said the lockdown provided an opportunity for Government to sort out the fuel sector so that when normalcy returned, fuel woes would be a thing of the past.
“Government must use the lockdown period to ensure that it fixes what usually creates chaos. At some point they said public service vehicles will have to have their own service stations to avoid queues. Right now kombis are parked but we are in queues. It shows that kombis were not the problem,” said Ms Nkomo.
Ms Nicola Ncube said:
“There was a rumour that the fuel price will go up. Maybe service stations are planning to hoard that fuel so that they start selling only when the fuel goes up.”
In an interview, Minister of Energy and Power Development, Fortune Chasi said:
“We are looking into the matter. Unfortunately, I cannot give a response now but after engagements with my team, I will be able to respond tomorrow.” The Chronicle