By Anna Chibamu
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has warned fuel operators getting foreign currency through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) auction system that they risk losing their licenses if they continue rejecting payments in the Zimbabwean Dollar.
Responding to a question from MDC-T senator Morgen Komichi on Thursday, Ncube said fuel operators benefiting from the auction system will be left out as government will engage NOIC to provide fuel for the public.
Almost all garages, except for a few are selling fuel in United States Dollars, forcing the public to purchase foreign currency from the parallel market at exorbitant rates amounting to US$ to $200.
Komichi had asked: “We have noted that petrol and diesel are not available in RTGS and in local currency. We have expressed our concern but we are not getting any feedback. Does it mean that the country is going to full dollarisation whilst workers are not getting salaries in USD? This has put a lot of pressure on our people, so what is the government doing to better the people’s livelihoods.”
In response, Ncube blamed unprincipled operators for profiteering at the expense of the public.
“It is certainly true that if you go to most of the service stations, there are more of them that are selling fuel in US dollar and not in the Zimdollar as they would have promised us. Some of these fuel operators would come to the auction to source foreign currency to purchase fuel. They are successful in doing so but the condition is that they should sell in the local currency. They do not comply. They proceed to sell in US dollars,” said Ncube.
“They are committing two offences; depriving the public of Zimdoallar fuel and then depriving the fiscus and the public of rightfully earning taxes. That is an issue we are dealing with and we have decided to really narrow the space and put it in a facility through NOIC so that it is part of the architecture of accessing the fuel in the first place, making sure that it is available in the local currency,” he said.
“It is our expectation that this will improve the availability of fuel in Zimdollar. The moment you have these kinds of shenanigans, you also now have interplay between the fuel market and the parallel market feed into each other. People looking for arbitrage gaps, it is part of the game that they play but we are working hard to close that gap to make sure that the public is better treated by the fuel companies,” Ncube said.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said: “Petrol, diesel and gas in local currency are in short supply. So the biggest thing that we need to do as Zimbabweans is to eliminate corruption before pointing fingers at the government. As a government, we have got policies which support our currency but because of speculators and corrupt individuals, you will discover that our exports and foreign currency earnings compared to other countries, Zimbabwe is supposed to be one of the most stable currencies or economies. RBZ gives US dollar to the petroleum industry but people are engaging in deals instead of using those monies to procure fuel. We need to eliminate corruption,” Ziyambi added.