GOVERNMENT has set up a multi-sectoral task force to monitor the fuel situation and prices of basic commodities in Bulawayo following artificial shortages fuelled by unscrupulous businesses and panic buying.
The Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs, Cde Judith Ncube, said the Bulawayo community should not panic as there was sufficient supply of basic commodities.
Addressing a Press Conference at her office yesterday, Minister Ncube said the fuel supply situation and price distortions were a major concern, hence the formation of the multi-sectoral taskforce.
She said the taskforce starts work with immediate effect.
“We thought it was wise for us as Bulawayo to look into the issues affecting Bulawayo, the issues of concern, the challenges whereby the Minister of Energy has indicated that supplies to service stations have increased, however, the queues are remaining constant and winding.
“The sale of fuel on the black market is a cause for concern regarding safety issues and the distortion of supplies. As a result, we have put together a task force comprising of security forces from the four arms of the security, the transport operators, the think tanks, residents associations, churches and other Government departments such as Zera to look into the matter,” said Minister Ncube.
She said the Bulawayo Provincial Administrator Mrs Khonzani Ncube is the co-ordinator of the taskforce.
Minister Ncube said local manufacturers had assured them that there was enough supply of basic commodities and urged people to desist from panic buying.
“We have been assured by manufacturers that there is sufficient supply and yet we see goods being bought in bulk in panic mode. You look at United Refineries for instance, the cooking oil is still pegged at around $3,50 and yet the retailers are charging exorbitant prices.
“We are saying to the community of Bulawayo, don’t panic, the products are there. People are capitalising on that because of the panic mode,” she said.
Minister Ncube said retailers had also weighed in and were putting measures to curb hoarding of goods.
“We would like to appeal to retailers to assist their customers accordingly. If you look at cooking oil, people are selling the very commodity on the black market charging exorbitant prices.
“Why do we have to exploit our own people? Why not assist your own brother, your own sister? We need to assist each other. The multi sectoral taskforce will be looking into this. They will be on the ground as from today,” she said.
Turning to transport associations, Minister Ncube said they had engaged her office and recommended a fare increase to 75 cents.
“The cause for concern is also the fare increase by taxi operators. We have just come out of a meeting where the matter was addressed. The 50 cents fare has stood since 2009.
“If you visit other provinces, we know there is a province where the taxis charge up to a $1 but our associations, because of other expenses they incur, are saying they have recommended a 75 cents fare. At times they fail to get fuel from garages resulting in them getting fuel from the black market. This affects their operations and may result in them charging a little bit higher,” she said.
The Minister said as a way of trying to bring sanity to the city in the wake of the fuel crisis, transport associations were working on getting selected service stations to fuel kombis plying a particular route.
“My office is in support of that. It will actually create a friendly atmosphere which the community will definitely support because if we are organised the better for us as a people.
“They are keen on identifying garages according to routes so that they don’t find themselves overlapping. For example, for kombis plying the Bellevue-Nketa route, we would love to have a garage along that route to fuel those kombis. The same applies to all kombis,” she said.
“I’m so excited that immediately after meeting the transport associations, they are subscribing to an organised approach. They also volunteered to assist in all the service stations. I strongly believe we are moving in the right direction as a province. We want to work together to solve the challenges that are facing us as a country and as a province”.
Minister Ncube said operators expressed concern over the prices of oil and spare parts as well as the cost of servicing their vehicles which have shot up.
She said transport operators also appealed for the decentralisation of the issuance of operators’ licences because they incur more expenses in travelling and accommodation as they are only issued in Harare.
Source: The Chronicle