Gumbo in fuel container use climb-down as farmers, grinding mill operators cry foul

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By Idah Mhetu

GOVERNMENT has not banned the use of jerry cans and other suitable containers when buying fuel from service stations, Energy and Power Development Minister Joram Gumbo has said.

Earlier during the week, Gumbo issued what sounded like a ban on the use of containers to fetch some fuel as long queues continue to characterise most service stations in the country with signs the petroleum product was still scarce.

Gumbo was also linked to threats to withdraw licences from fuel station operators found selling the product into containers amid claims of the hoarding of the precious liquid.

But at a media briefing in Harare on Wednesday, the Zanu PF politician appeared to be backtracking on his statements.

“Government has not banned the use of containers, but what we are saying is let us be responsible enough. But people must use them (jerry cans) when necessary,” he said.

The alleged ban on containers is feared may have affected Zanu PF’s rural support base and ordinary Zimbabweans in general as grinding mills, water pumps and other mechanical devices run on diesel and petrol.

Terryment Kurakaraka, a grinding mill operator from Harare’s Epworth township, told Wednesday that the ban has forced most people in his industry to bribe fuel attendants in order to procure diesel.

“It is just a matter of bribing the petrol attendant with maybe a $5 note and then they fill up your jerry can or we just arrange with those who have cars to use them to buy more fuel which we then drain for our grinding mills,” he said.

Amon Chivhinge, a resident, also concurred saying life was turning difficult without the means to obtain fuel to run home generators.

But Minister Gumbo, in his Wednesday comments, admitted there were indeed genuine cases that warranted the use of containers to ferry fuel.

Quoting Statutory Instrument 12 of 2007, Gumbo said the flammable liquid was hazardous.

“My Ministry therefore is advising all parties charged with the distribution and use of fuel to observe the law in supporting all economic and social activities requiring the use of fuel,” he said.

“…It is illegal to hoard fuel as fuel is a hazardous substance that poses great danger to life and property and that every citizen must desist from such acts.”

Gumbo also allayed fears fuel supplies were drying up in the country while urging a stop to panic buying by crisis-weary locals.

“The nation is assured that government is doing its best to ensure continued supply of fuel throughout the country and therefore there is no need for hoarding and panic buying,” he said.