Black market fuel back
30 May 2018
…company vehicles providing stock
…haulage trucks biggest suppliers
BLACK MARKET fuel dealers have resurfaced in Harare in recent weeks following the sharp rise in oil prices on the global market, which hit the Zimbabwe market the hardest.
Unlike neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe does not have strategic reserves or a fund to mitigate consumers when the global prices goes up and this means every change is immediately passed on to the end user.
With global oil prices hitting a four-year high, Zimbabwe’s fuel prices have reached unprecedented levels.
The situation has resulted in shortages on the formal market as licensed dealers are reluctant to acquire large volumes of fuel at high prices when it is expected the global market will slump.
With the vehicle population in Zimbabwe at an all-time high, demand for fuel is very high at all times and artificial shortages triggered by licenced dealers have seen the return of black market traders.
These black market traders are cashing in on two fronts –lowering prices when service stations have supplies and hiking prices when official markets are dry.
It has since emerged that company vehicles are major suppliers of black market fuel as drivers ‘drain’ either petrol or diesel while on duty for around $1 a litre.
The dealers spotted by H-Metro revealed that they sell diesel for $1.20 a litre (sold for $6 for 5litre containers) when it’s abundant on the official market where it costs at least $1.25.
Glow Petroleum yesterday had the cheapest fuel price, $1.39 for petrol and $1.25 diesel compared to other surveyed service stations.
However, when the service stations run dry, the black market price jumps to $9 for the 5 litre container, thus $1, 80 per litre.
In Warren Park yesterday, there was no fuel at Total Service Station while a few metres away fuel dealers sold the ‘precious’ commodity at a premium.
Black market fuel dealers who spoke to H-Metro refused to reveal their suppliers. The men who sell on the road are, in most cases, employees of dealers who connive with ‘company car’ drivers to siphon fuel (usually a minimum of five litres) at an average of $1 per litre.
The biggest culprits are haulage truck drivers whose long distance trips require large volumes of fuel.
There are reports that even those trucks carrying supplies for service stations are part of the fuel syndicate and the drivers blame shortfalls on evaporation during transportation.
In Harare’s CBD some suspected fuel dealers said they keep jerrycans just to help people who need to use them to buy fuel since plastic containers are prohibited on service stations.
“I am not aware of why you think we sell fuel. If there is anything you need to know, go and ask guys at the service station,” said one black market fuel ‘dealer’.
Another dealer said: “It is not necessary to reveal where I get the fuel from. The thing is I am trying to survive and make ends meet. When we sell remember it is strictly cash, we do not accept swipe or ecocash because of cash shortages.”
Another dealer who spoke in Kambuzuma said: ““Kana muchida kutenga tengai,” before he walked away.
However, commuter omnibus drivers said they are impatient with some queues that are sometimes present at several stations.
“The price of diesel on the black market is cheap. Fuel irikunetsa and you are aware of it, uye ma queues ndiwo atisina nguva nawo when we want to make our trips.
“In the end we just get the fuel on the black market because we need to meet our daily targets,” said driver Watson Manono.
Manono added there are some black market dealers who are operating as fronts for fuel smugglers and other syndicates run by haulage truck drivers.
Added Manono: “We know of some guys who get the fuel from haulage truck drivers I suspect are also smugglers. They meet along the Harare-Bulawayo highway with containers to which they get fuel for the black market.
“When they come to us, because we are in town, they sell five litres of diesel at $7. This fuel is not good for the vehicles because at times inenge yakasanganiswa ne paraffin.”
Not a lucrative business
While there might be tempting pointers that fuel dealers at the black market are living large because they get cash transactions, for some diehard dealers in the industry (also dealing with fuel coupons), the business is not lucrative.
Along downtown Nelson Mandela Avenue, a dealer who deals in coupons, Stewart ‘Skimbo’ Dube, said the profit they get is minimal because they act as “fronts” of other people.
“Suppliers know what they want. If they give you fuel at a dollar per litre, at times we just have to sell is cheap to get quick more. So the profit is maybe two or three dollars. Similarly, for the coupons that we get, the profits are between two to three dollars,” said Skimbo.
Skimbo said there are government employees and other people in the private sector who get monthly allocations of fuel coupons that sell to them at a lower price.
“A twenty-litre coupon for either petrol or diesel we buy at $18 or $19. When we sell, it is between $21 and $22. We are just doing this to survive, not necessarily that there is a huge financial gain to it,” added Skimbo.
(Gibson Nyikadzino and Rumbidzai Chingoveza)