Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) is dismayed by the recent fuel price hikes as announced by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA).
The increase, which sees fuel rising to USD 1. 68, the second inside of four days represents a gross attack on the livelihoods of informal traders, business entities, with adverse ripple effects for the consumers as it will see the prices of goods and services skyrocketing given that fuel is a major cost driver and that most if not all products are moved by road owing to the criminal negligence of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
The attempts at justification by the Minister of Energy and Power Development Soda Zhemu are superfluous at best and insensitive at worst. He speaks on ensuring the viability of the fuel sector with scant regard for the ordinary consumer, yet it has been reported that fuel companies get priority at the weekly Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) foreign currency auction, where some of them are known to divert this to the black market fetching 100 percent returns. Others have been reported as falsely declaring fuel to be in transit in order to circumvent duty payment only to be caught out with water filled tankers at border posts after selling the fuel within the country. Much as there has been reported arrests, there have been no reported convictions, based on the fact that some of the perpetrators are linked to high ranking officials.
The tax regime on fuel is also a huge factor in the price hikes despite the international developments the Minister alluded to at his press conference. Zimbabwe’s fuel is the highest in the region but the poorest in quality owing to opaque ethanol blending ratios.
To illustrate the domino effect of the fuel price hike, prices of basic have already begun rising with the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) announcing a 15 percent hike, utility bills and rentals are constantly being reviewed upwards yet salaries remain static and in the local currency which continues to lose value with each day.
VISET calls upon the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) to immediately institute comprehensive investigations into the goings on in the fuel sector with a view to prosecute all those found in the wrong. Economic crimes are a large component of the ordinary person’s torment more than any external impediment that we face as a nation and must hence be dealt with through deterrent measures.
It is also our considered view that Government must institute a downward review of duties on fuel in order to cushion the common man.