Fuel crisis hits Southern African countries amid protests

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Malawians are bracing for demonstrations countrywide by end February to protest against persistent chronic fuel shortage saying they are prepared to be shot at. Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Energy and Power Development has lost
US$35 million in a dodgy fuel deal with a South African company.

On Monday (February 14) scores of civil society leaders who had organized a protest in the capital Lilongwe were detained by police.

The protest, according to Malawians, was to draw the attention of President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration to the fuel crisis which they argue is crippling the country’s economy.

“We are saying in two weeks, we will demonstrate across the country,” Undule Mwakasungula, chair of Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) is quoted saying.

“They will shoot us, kill us but we will not relent (… ) This country belongs to all of us and no one can be wiser than all Malawians. This country is not a one man project.”

But reports say Mutharika issued a strong warning to organisers of the protest not to draw their inspiration from the Egyptian revolution – where President Mubarak was forced to step down.

The president of Malawi warns that the country is land-locked and dependent on other countries to import her goods, including fuel.

“We don’t control the flow of goods when they are at the port. The fuel shortage is because of congestion at the ports of Beira and Nacala ports where Malawi collects its fuel,” said Mutharika.

Malawi has suffered recurrent fuel shortages because the country does not have enough foreign exchange to pay suppliers.

Zimbabwe fuel crisis

In neighbouring Zimbabwe similar fuel shortages are reported to be generating heated debates in parliament.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development Justin Mupamhanga during a parliamentary portfolio committee public hearing Monday said government lost a staggering US$35 million in a dodgy fuel deal.

The incident came after the country was hit by shortages of the commodity In January. The money was paid to a spooky South African oil firm, and no deliveries came through.

“We were very desperate and we approached a company, Noah, to deliver the commodity. They promised to do so in 48 hours but they never supplied the fuel, worsening the problem,” said Mupamhanga

This was after government realized that the country was going to be faced with fuel shortages, due to docking problems at Beira in Mozambique, it was decided to import 4,5m litres through a South Africa based company identified as Noah, as a stop gap measure.

Fuel shortages, resulted in prices skyrocketing and raising fears of protracted shortages as happened over the past decade.

The country uses a cash-based system to procure fuel, supplied by 61 independent petroleum firms.

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