Govt warns against fuel price increases as dealers start trading product at $8

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By Costa Nkomo

GOVERNMENT has ordered fuel dealers to stick to prices announced by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) a week ago amid reports Tuesday the price of the scarce commodity was going up again.

On Tuesday, fuel turned more scarce in central Harare with reports service stations were deliberately keeping the product in anticipation of a fresh price increase.

Some service stations had begun selling fuel at pump prices as high RTGS$8 per litre.

At a post-cabinet media briefing Tuesday, Energy Minister Fortune Chasi said authorities were also aware of some fuel service stations that were now selling the petroleum product in US dollars.

Chasi said government will not fold its hands while unscrupulous players in the fuel industry subjected the public to untold suffering through continued fuel price increases.

He warned that measures will be taken against those planning to hike the price or were now selling the product in foreign currency.

“It is unacceptable for fuel players to insist on US dollar payments only. That is not compliant with their licences. Remedial action will be taken,” Chasi said.

Speaking at the same occasion, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said ZERA will be on the lookout for fuel players who would have hiked their prices.

“Cabinet has resolved that it is unacceptable to sell fuel at as high as $7 per litre. Minister Chasi has met players and warned them that this behaviour is not acceptable and ZERA will be out in full force enforcing the law,” Mutsvangwa said.

Finance permanent secretary George Guvamatanga also dismissed reports fuel prices have increased, adding that government has not reviewed the prices.

“The Government has NOT increased the price of fuel. While a review of prices was done, the decision is that the current prices should be maintained. ZERA will be issuing a detailed statement,” he wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

A snap survey carried out by Tuesday afternoon established that some fuel service stations in Harare’s CBD which had the product in their stocks had deliberately stopped selling while anticipating another price hike.

Fuel attendants who spoke to said the new prices were now pegged at RTGS$7.80 for diesel while petrol will be selling at RTGS$7.98 per litre.

Several public transport operators who spoke to this publication hinted on the prospects of increasing their fares in the event of another fuel price increase.

“We will be left with no option but hike fares also. At least if fares paid by two passengers at a time could buy us a litre, it would make sense,” said one kombi driver in a fuel queue.

Some commuters said late Tuesday that they were being charged RTGS$5 per trip for distances as short as 7 km.

Government recently stopped subsidies of fuel, opening the flood gates for price hikes as players are now being forced to invade the black market to source for expensive forex.