Government is working on a new set of regulations that would allow holders of free funds to import fuel to augment current supplies.

In 2015, Statutory Instrument (SI) 171 was amended to allow members of the public to import up to 2 000 litres of fuel per month for personal use.

However, the legal instrument was repealed two years later through SI 122 of 2017, which stipulated that only companies licensed in terms of Section 29 of the Petroleum Act were allowed to import fuel. The market is currently plagued by intermittent stock-outs, which are negatively affecting individual consumers and businesses.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development Engineer Gloria Magombo said the new regulations will be made soon.

“This is something that is being considered and we should be making an announcement soon,” said Eng Magombo. We are still looking at the modalities; that is the process of how that (deregulating fuel importation) can be done.

“Obviously we already have licensed operators who we think will have to lead the process of procurement. We will be looking at allowing, for example, mining companies who have their own foreign currency and need fuel for their operations.

“I think it’s an issue Government wants to open up and see what are the opportunities for synergies with those who have free funds to be able to import for own consumption. We are looking at people who want to import for own consumption,” she said.

In particular, Section 29 of the Petroleum Act imposes a penalty of up to five years imprisonment for either procuring, producing or retailing fuel without a license.

It reads: “No person, other than a petroleum company licensed under this part, shall procure, sell or produce any petroleum product.

“Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level nine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”

Eng Magombo is, however, confident that the current fuel stock-outs will be addressed soon.

“The stock-outs are mainly a logistical issue. Like we have said before, internally we do have stocks. As of this week, more stocks have been released into the market and you will not be seeing queues soon, an intervention has been made.

“We have been going through a transitional period where the MPS (Monetary Policy Statement) has been announced and money for fuel is still being allocated by Government, so we have a logistical issue which we do not expect to persist. We expect to be cleared by the end of this week,” she said.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe said industry would welcome the move.

Government, he said, should eventually leave the procurement of petroleum products to private players.

Currently, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) provides private companies with foreign currency to import fuel.

“If they liberalise the procurement of fuel, they also have to look at the taxation side so that the landing price of fuel does not increase.

“Right now, the taxes for fuel are significantly higher compared to our regional counterparts, meaning when private players import, they bear the extra cost and the landing price will be high.

“For example, Government will have to reduce excise duty on fuel to ensure that the landing price of the product is cheaper,” said Mr Jabangwe.Sunday Mail