Zimbabwe runs dry

HARARE - Zimbabwean motorists battled for scarce petrol supplies during the weekend as a deepening fuel crisis brought the southern African country to a near halt.
Many fuel stations completely ran dry. Riot police were called in to stop motorists fighting at those, which still had petrol.

>In the capital Harare, there were few cars and buses on the roads, with thousands of motorists jamming a dozen or so petrol stations in search of supplies. A litre of petrol was selling for $1,200.
“I have been here since last night, waiting for petrol and I have seen about half a dozen fist-fights and one guy threatening to shoot anyone who tries to jump the queue,” one man told The Zimbabwean at a fuel station in central Harare.
Riot police was summoned to those stations with fuel to control rowdy motorists fighting among themselves.
Speaking in Egypt en route home from the UN General Assembly, President Robert Mugabe said the fuel crisis was particularly bothersome to him, as he had worked out a special deal with South Africa and Equatorial Guinea.
The 82-year old leader blamed the crisis on government officials who he said had failed to take advantage of the arrangement with Equatorial Guinea, where Zimbabwe buys oil in local currency in exchange for joint-ventures in tourism and exports of beef and soya-beans.
Industry sources however accused the oil procurement agency of engineering the shortage through corruption and sabotage.
They reported petrol stations were running dry because the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) was hoarding fuel, and pushing for cash oil import deals that could give company officials a chance to benefit from illegal foreign currency deals.
Government and industry sources, said NOCZIM was moving to scrap a deal with SA, endangering one of the last fuel lifelines Zimbabwe has left.
South Africa and Equatorial Guinea currently supplies 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s fuel while the balance comes from Kuwait’s Independent Petroleum Group.
Senior government and NOCZIM officials refused to comment, but sources in Mugabe’s government confirmed there was a probe into the shortage, which has left motorists queuing for kilometers to fill their tanks.
The current fuel shortages have created a black market for unscrupulous officials who were now selling fuel at more than 10 times the official price, undercutting government efforts to cushion hard-pressed consumers. – Own correspondent

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