The fact that fuel is now readily available at most of the city’s service stations has not stopped the illegal selling of the commodity on the black market and dealers are still visible on some street corners. Traders can be seen waiting for customers, usually kombi drivers, while their product is kept nearby and they seem to have mastered the art of ‘hide and seek’ with the authorities.
One spot is near the service station on the corner of McChlery Avenue and Robert Mugabe Road East. Harare News visited the area and at first was not welcome as the dealers didn’t want their illegal activities exposed but later, on condition of anonymity, the sources started opening up. “We use coupons to buy the fuel at the service station and resell to kombi drivers who don’t have the patience to queue at the service station,” said one source. He revealed that the coupons he uses are bought from that same station at a price that depends on the amount one requires. This was also confirmed by a fuel attendant at the service station who said that if customers want to buy fuel using coupons or cash, they just sell it to them.
The dealer added that it is not about making a huge profit, because fuel is no longer as scarce as it used to be when he started and that he only gains $0.25/litre.
Tom Masau, who operates near Wedzera Service Station along Chiremba Road, concurs saying fuel selling is no longer that lucrative, however, he added that half a loaf is better than nothing. “The kombi drivers come to us just because they are used to dealing with us,” he said.
Fabion Gwara, a kombi driver who plies the Chiremba Road route, told Harare News that it is not guaranteed that he will buy from the street dealers, but only at times when there are a couple of cars at the service station. “Sometimes you see that there are 3 or 4 cars queued up and because I do not want to be delayed I end up buying from the dealers. Time is money, a few minutes lost waiting in the line can cost you something in monetary terms at the end of the day,” he said.
Motorists expressed dismay in the last quarter of 2014 over fuel prices on the local market that only indicated a paltry two to four cents decline in prices against a 40% decline on the international market price. Before the drop in prices petrol prices ranged from $1.52 to $1.56 while diesel was at $1.40 to $1.44(retail) on the local market. After the drop, prices range from between $1.49 to $1.53 for petrol and $1.38 to $1.43 for diesel.
Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) Chief Executive Officer, Gloria Magombo, told a press meeting late last year that the variation in prices between fuel retailers is mainly due to NOCZIM, which is responsible for fuel purchasing, being non-operational. “The procurement of fuel by small players means that they can get it at different prices, hence the difference in their selling prices,” she said.
Steady Kangata the spokesperson for Environmental Management Authority (EMA) said fuel is a hazardous substance and because of it being highly flammable any sales should be done by registered service stations only. “If a dealer is not a registered service station they must stop selling fuel immediately. There are no negotiations on this issue,” he said. His words were in accord with the Petroleum Act 13;22 section 29, subsection 1 which reads ‘No person, other than a petroleum company licensed under this part shall procure, sell or produce any petroleum product.’