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Fuel service stations deliberately hoarding and limiting supply of fuel for speculative purposes, which has resulted in artificial shortages, risk prosecution as well as losing their licences, industry regulator Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has warned.
The country has been experiencing fuel supply challenges with long winding queues seen at some service stations.
And concerns have been raised over an increase in the number of people buying fuel in bulk and supplying on the parallel market.
It has also emerged there are cases of some service stations charging more than the regulated price while others are hoarding it, worsening the situation that Government is working to avert.
Zera said such operators risked losing their licences as well as face prosecution.
“It has come to the attention of Zera that some petroleum licensees are deliberately hoarding or limiting fuel supplies to consumers for speculative purposes.
“Petroleum licensees are hereby warned to cease and desist from such criminal activities as they risk prosecution and cancellation of their licences,” said Zera.
Apart from creating artificial shortages, hoarding of fuel also poses high risks of fires, that can be fatal while use of containers also increase chances of fuel contamination which compromises quality and damage engines.
Fuel is a top priority on foreign currency allocation due to its highly strategic role in economic activities.
Last week alone, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) extended $41 million for fuel to help ease the challenges being experienced on the market.
Zera said its officers were also on the ground assessing the situation and called on an all stakeholder approach in dealing with the challenge.
The authority said whistleblowers were to report any suspected cases of misconduct by fuel dealers who are bent on sabotaging the economy.
“Such actions are in violation petroleum regulations which prohibits the withholding of petroleum products for speculative purposes and charging fuel prices that are beyond the prescribed limits.
“Members of the public are advised to report all fuel retailers who are suspected of deliberately withholding or limiting fuel supplies for speculative purposes,” said Zera.
Other basic commodities such as flour and cooking oil have also been in short supply following a spate of panic buying triggered by currency uncertainties and skyrocketing foreign currency rates on the parallel market.
Foreign currency shortages have largely been blamed for limiting industry activity, although Government is working flat out to create a conducive environment that promotes increased productivity and ultimately economic growth.