By Leopold Munhende
ZIMBABWE is sitting on large stocks of bonded fuel but is too broke to buy the product and alleviate the current shortages, Energy Minister Jorum Gumbo has confirmed.
The minister, who recently said the country had over two years supply of fuel at its depots, was speaking to members of the media at his Harare offices on Monday.
He said that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was overwhelmed by foreign currency demands from fuel companies which has seen the re-emergence of winding fuel queues.
“What this means is that even when there are facilities and enough stocks inland but in bonded form; (because) no payment has been made, there are no releases of the bonded stocks and local fuel companies cannot supply to service stations,” he said.
“There is enough fuel at NOIC depots in the country, which product can only be accessed after it has been paid for.
“Effectively therefore, the quantity of fuel that can be accessed at the service station is a function of the availability of foreign currency available to service the facility.
“If people panic and start hoarding fuel, they are actually putting unnecessary pressure on the monetary authorities to look for extra foreign currency so that they can hoard.”
Zimbabwe is currently battling its worst economic crisis since the coalition government with worsening foreign currency shortages, price hikes and resurgent shortages of basic goods.
Last month president Emmerson Mnangagwa raised the price of fuel in what Gumbo said was an attempt to circumvent smuggling and hoarding of the product.
Gumbo added that central bank was also overwhelmed by forex requests from other ministries, meaning that it had to prioritise allocations.
“It is important to note that there are many competing requirements for foreign currency in the country… the demand for forex is not only for our ministry but for other essential services in government as well.”