BY FIDELITY MHLANGA

THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has extended the lifespan of the 2019 fuel licences by one month to allow for administrative changes to the licensing process.
The fuel licences were due for renewal on December 31, 2019.

In a circular dated December 30, addressed to fuel dealers, Zera said: “Please be advised that the duration of petroleum licences issued in 2019 has been extended to 31 January 2020.

This extension has been necessitated by some administrative changes to the licensing process which Zera will be finalising before the revised expiry date. Operators will be advised once the processes has been finalised.”

But the delay in issuing fuel import licences has jolted indigenous fuel players who see the move as an attempt to elbow them out by hiking licencing fees and in the process creating monopolies in the energy sector
“It’s just a mechanism meant to frustrate and to benefit one person in the industry. Instead they should allow anyone to bring fuel just like when the oil sector was liberalised back then,” said one fuel dealer.

Zera acting chief executive officer Eddington Mazambani could neither confirm nor deny whether the regulator will hike licence fees.

“It is true, we are consulting on the new licensing framework for the petroleum sector. Until consultations are finalised, I cannot pre-empt,” Mazambani said.

Efforts to get a comment from the Indigenous Petroleum Association of Zimbabwe (Ipaz) — a grouping of local fuel companies were fruitless yesterday.

Zimbabwe’s major oil-importing entities include Ipaz, Zuva Petroleum, Puma Energy, Total Zimbabwe, Glow Petroleum, Petrotrade (Pvt) Ltd and Engen Petroleum Zimbabwe.

Sakunda and Redan were some of the key members of Ipaz until they were taken over by Singapore-based Trafigura group, one of the world’s leading commodity trading companies, and Puma Energy — which are related companies — respectively.

The prices of diesel and petrol are at $17,90 and 17,40 per litre, respectively. The “precious liquid” has remained elusive on the market, with desperate motorists spending hours in long-winding queues countrywide.

Unregistered fuel dealers have taken advantage of the fuel crisis to sell fuel on the parallel market predominantly in hard currency.

On a daily basis, the oil companies and Ipaz would need to collectively import 4 254 285 litres of diesel and 3 231 428 litres of petrol.

According to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya, fuel gobbles 45% of total foreign currency receipts annually.

Mangudya blamed the spike in demand for fuel to the growing vehicle population in the country, which has jumped 50% to 1,8 million as of 2018.

To take advantage of the huge volumes of fuel shipped into the country, Treasury in the 2020 budget resolved to ring-fence 5% of excise duty revenue collected on fuel towards the construction and rehabilitation of the dangerous Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway.