Zambia has engaged a Kenyan company, Dalbit Petroleum Limited, to co-import petrol and diesel into the southern African country to ease a fuel shortage that has persisted for close to two weeks.
Fuel shortage, particularly petrol, has affected most parts of Zambia, with the capital city Lusaka being the hardest hit.
The government has since suspended a 25 per cent duty on fuel imports following Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs)’s demand for the removal of the tax to enable them quickly import the commodities at cheaper prices.
Energy minister Kenneth Konga said the current petrol shortage was as a result of the refinery catalyst and reforming unit at Indeni Oil Refinery that required replacement earlier than expected hence the technical performance of the firm had reduced.
Indeni is expected to shut down for a scheduled two-week maintenance and the tax suspension of importation of finished petroleum will last for that period.
“As regards the importation of fuel during the period of the shutdown, the government has engaged the Independent Petroleum Group (IPG) of Kuwait and Dalbit Petroleum Limited of Kenya to import 50 million litres of diesel and 30 million litres of petrol,” Mr Konga told Parliament in response to a parliamentarian’s query on the fuel shortage.
Opposition parliamentarian Raphael Muyunda said the Zambian economy was grinding to a halt because of the fuel shortages.
“Is the government in order to remain silent when queues and queues of motor vehicles are desperately lining up in search for petrol while others are totally lost as to where to find diesel at the peak of the farming season?” posed Mr Muyunda.
This weekend, Mr Konga said the fuel shortage could cause panic.
He said he had visited several service stations where fuel attendants confirmed to him that their managements had instructed them not to sale the fuel in reserve.
“We have also requested the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to order 11 million litres (unleaded petrol),” said Mr Konga, adding that the fuel problem will be over soon.
After an investigation, Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) dismissed assertions that OMCs were hoarding fuel to create an artificial crisis in a bid to increases prices.
At least 700,000 litres of petrol and two million litres of diesel are consumed in Zambia every day.
A check at most filling stations in Lusaka found long queues ,some with over 1000 vehicles waiting for petrol.
Irate motorists protested against the shortage.
At Spectra filling station some motorists had to use containers to buy fuel and the police had been called in to control angry motorists, some of whom had camped there for days.
A motorist, Ms Chanda Mubanga said: “The government must quickly address this fuel crisis because if unresolved it will greatly affect the economy and lead to increase in prices of essential goods and services.”