By Mashudu Netsianda
Motorists in Bulawayo are shunning service stations which sell fuel in foreign currency and opting to fill their tanks from those charging in local currency as the exchange rate continues to shoot through the roof on the parallel market.
Service stations selling in local currency are now three times cheaper than those charging in foreign currency, forcing some forex service stations to reduce their prices.
As of yesterday, the exchange rate at the parallel market was US$1:ZW$60 via electronic transfers and US$1:45 for cash transactions.
At selected service stations visited by a Chronicle news crew, forex fuel stations were selling petrol for between US$1,05 and US$1,25 while diesel was going for between US$1 and US$1,13.
Those trading in local currency were charging between $21,76 and $23,30 for petrol while diesel was being sold for $21,59 and $22,55.
Our news crew observed yesterday that there were long winding queues at most service stations selling the commodity in local currency.
However, service stations that sold in forex only had few vehicles waiting for service. Some of the forex service stations had no cars at all.
Motorists who spoke to Chronicle said they could not afford to buy fuel at forex service stations. They said due to the skyrocketing rates, it was cheaper to buy from filling stations selling in domestic currency.
“I don’t earn foreign currency and equally I don’t have money to buy forex because of the ridiculous rates. Whatever forex that is in my purse, I am reserving it for emergency situations such as medications and other pertinent issues, but certainly not to buy fuel,” said Ms Sekai Ncube.
“I would rather sleep in the queue to buy fuel from service stations that sell in local currency because that is what I can afford.”
Another motorist, Mr Peter Ncube, who was in a queue at a service station in the central business district, said he shunned fuel from services stations selling in foreign currency because of the escalating exchange rates.
He said it was economically prudent to buy fuel in local currency despite the hassles associated with meandering and often chaotic queues.
“I used to buy fuel from forex garages because it was cheaper when compared to the local currency ones, but now it is the opposite. I think it is now worth queuing at service stations selling in Zimbabwean dollars,” he said.
Mr Ncube said some attendants at fuel stations selling in local currency were selling the commodity on the black market at either inflated prices or forex through third parties.
Mr Pamenus Tuso weighed in: “I have stopped fuelling my car at service stations charging in foreign currency because it has proved to be more expensive, which is why you find less cars at forex services stations.”
An attendant at a service station in Belmont said they were forced to reduce fuel prices in forex as a way of trying to lure back motorists who are shunning their services.
“We used to sell petrol for US$1,33 before the rates started escalating and we used to get more clients, but lately it has been tough and we are not getting many clients. We have reduced to US$1,05 hoping we will reclaim our clients,” said the attendant
“On a normal day we use four pumps each for diesel and petrol but because of a sharp decline in the number of cars, we are now only using one pump for petrol and one pump for diesel.”
According to Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera), the latest maximum price of petrol is $21 and $20,84 for diesel.
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.
Prior to the review, the price of petrol was pegged at $21,77 while diesel was at $21, 52 per litre.
Zera spokesperson Mr Gladmore Njanji was not available for comment. The Chronicle