Long fuel queues have disappeared in most parts of the country, with many service stations now having supplies and this is expected to continue as Government seeks a permanent solution.
Long queues were common before Christmas.
As part of the strategy to normalise supplies, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) provided Letters of Credit to fuel dealers towards this festive season, allowing them to draw on stocks already pumped into Zimbabwe, but held in bond until payment.
In particular, the Letters of Credit guaranteed the payment of the foreign currency component, usually a little over 60US cents a litre for petrol and diesel.
This is the landed price and includes all costs of procuring the fuel and pumping it from Beira into Zimbabwe.
The rest of the pump price comprises local mark-ups, pumping and handling charges, plus excise duties.
A Letter of Credit is letter issued by a bank to another bank (especially one in a different country) to serve as a guarantee for payments made to a specified person under specified conditions.
Over the past months, some filling stations had effectively closed and displayed “no petrol or diesel” signs, leaving motorists and commuters stranded.
Motorists have hailed Government’s intervention during the holiday season and are hopeful adequate supplies will continue to be available.
Herald Bureaux across the country yesterday reported that almost everywhere, petrol and diesel could be bought with either no queuing or short queues.
There was a rush for fuel before the public holidays when many managed to fill up and demand may increase from this week’s levels as people start returning home or resuming more normal work and school trips.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi attributed the appreciable improvement over the holidays to efforts which the Government has been making.
“We will continue in this direction,” he said. “All being equal, we are hopeful that the improvement will be sustained. We continue to work on various structures to improve the energy situation. While the energy situation is still considerably constrained, we remain cautiously optimistic that we will see an appreciable improvement in the first quarter of the coming year.”
Minister Chasi’s, deputy Cde Magna Mudyiwa said the ministry was committed to further improving fuel supplies.
“As a ministry, we have been working flat out to ensure normalcy returns in the fuel sector,” she said. “There has been excess fuel at our reserves, however, the major challenge was that we could not offload it without payment.
“RBZ had promised to offer fuel dealers Letters of Credit needed for payment to cater for the festive season and this has led to this improvement.”
In Harare, most service stations in the city centre and low-density suburbs had fuel and there were no queues.
A motorist, Mr Tinotenda Chakunga, who was refuelling at Total Service Station in Nelson Mandela Avenue applauded the improvement in fuel supplies.
“This is a welcome move. I never expected that during this festive season l would refuel this easily,” he said. “I was passing by and saw only two cars at the queue and l thought it is just for Total card holders, only to be told its accessible to everyone.”
In the Midlands Province, fuel queues have also disappeared.
In Gweru, there was fuel at all garages, but some were demanding cash only, a criminal offence that could, if the authorities act as they have before, see those service stations cut off from further supplies.
There were very short queues at Total service stations, and at the two Engen garages along Mvuma Road.
Fuel attendants at both Engine garages were reportedly demanding cash or payment in foreign currency.
A motorist at Engen garage along the Gweru-Harare Highway, Mr Vitalis Kiviti, said the fuel supply was a
move in the right direction.
“We hope the situation remains if not improves next year, this is a sign that 2020 we might be headed for the good times,” he said. “However, service stations should accept EcoCash and bank swipe.”
In Masvingo, almost all service stations had fuel, especially diesel.
Big service stations like Total, Zuva, and Engen and Glow Petroleum were dispensing fuel to the few cars that queued.
Fuel dealers said they had enough stocks to meet demand.
Petrol had slightly shorter supplies than diesel yesterday, being available in fewer garages, while diesel was available at almost every service station.
Dealers told The Herald they were expecting petrol deliveries to improve sharply from yesterday, assuring motorists of sufficient stocks into the New Year.
In Victoria Falls, three of the six service stations had fuel, queues were short despite the increase in vehicles in the town due to the annual Vic Falls Carnival which started on Sunday.
In Hwange, only one garage had diesel, with the longest queue having about 30 cars.
In Mashonaland Central, there were two out of seven service stations with fuel in the provincial capital Bindura, but they had also short queues, the rest were expecting fuel deliveries today.
Glow Petroleum was serving both petrol and diesel, while Dandaro service station was serving only petrol.
Puma service station personnel said they were expecting both products today.
At Jerera Growth Point in Masvingo province, only two out of four service stations had fuel, although they were only accepting hard cash, US dollars and Rands, a situation that left most motorists with plastic money stranded.
Again this is illegal.
Mutare seemed to have the worst supplies yesterday, where most major service stations had no fuel, with only Total service stations having petrol.
There were long queues as motorists jostled to refill their vehicles ahead of the New Year festivities.
An employee at Zuva garage who pleaded for anonymity said, “We have no fuel and we do not expect any deliveries today.”
Cabinet, in its last meeting for the year, assured the nation that necessary steps were being taken to ensure that fuel supplies were normalised during the festive season and beyond.