Malawian citizens, in random interviews at filling stations in the Capital, Lilongwe, have described oil marketing companies, commercial banks and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) as the “biggest culprits” perpetrating the perennial problem of fuel stock-outs in the country.
The sentiments by the citizens come amid the resurgence of petrol stock-outs in some parts of the country, which has left motorists queuing at service stations since Monday.
MERA has attributed the current fuel crisis to shortage of foreign exchange in the country.
On the other hand, National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) has reportedly attributed the shortage to the delays by ships carrying NOCMA’s fuel imports at the port of Beira in Mozambique, which forced the company to source the product using Dar es Salaam Port in Tanzania to Lilongwe.
But one citizen, Jata Mbulo, came guns blazing, accusing MERA of being “dishonest about the real problem” leading to fuel disruptions in Malawi.
“They know they are one of the biggest culprits and know who they connive and conspire with. MERA should tell the nation the truth. Malawians deserve to know the true culprits behind the fuel problem,” he said.
In interviews with the media on Tuesday, NOCMA Director of Operations, Micklas Reuben, said measures were being undertaken to address the current fuel shortage.
These, according to Reuben, include the following: Letters of credit which have been outstanding have been confirmed as reported by banks on Tuesday morning, engagements with local banks have secured $15 million and 3.2 million euros.
However, another citizen, Ken Muziwa, accused commercial banks of failing to influence letters of credit and opting to sale forex to vendors for them to buy second hand clothes, among other unimportant things.
“For instance, the recent discovery of 388 ATM cards reportedly loaded with millions of dollars. Who issued those cards? That money could have been used to buy fuel, medicine and other essentials for the country,” he said.
Neya Banda blamed oil marketing companies for “aiding and abating” fuel shortages in the country, saying they are “making big business” out of these situations.
“It is obvious that when they create a fuel crisis, they will sale whatever they have within a few days or even hours. They do not love this country and its citizens”.
In the four cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba as well as other district centres such as Mangochi, Mulanje, Kasungu and Mzimba, some service stations had, by Tuesday, reportedly gone three days without fuel.
MERA Consumer Affairs and Public Relations Manager Fitina Khonje told the media that: “The continued shortage of foreign currency is affecting importation of adequate volumes of petroleum products into the country.
“However, licensed importers and all stakeholders in the fuel supply chain remain committed to minimizing stock-outs and ensuring continuity of supply.”
She further said importers of petroleum products are continuously engaging with key stakeholders to find solutions and sustain fuel supplies.
But Nyembezi Chilele alleged that the crisis has been “designed to frustrate people”.
“In as much as they want to make more money, they should not do it at the expense of the citizens. At least they need to be sensitive to the plight of the people,” he said.
In Zomba and Mulanje, almost all service stations reportedly had no fuel as at 2pm Tuesday.
On the other hand, in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, most fuelling stations only had diesel, forcing motorists to queue at the few stations with petrol stocks.
This is the sixth time since last August that Malawians have faced fuel shortages that have forced motorists to queue in anticipation of delivery at particular stations. The other more pronounced shortages were recorded in October and December last year as well as March and May this year.
The resurfacing of fuel queues comes barely two months after Malawi Government said it had devised several measures to ensure security of fuel supply, including negotiating to pay suppliers in local currency.
On why the country continues facing fuel shortages two months after indicating that there were new measures, including paying suppliers in the local currency, Government Spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu on Tuesday said government directed NOCMA to start engaging fuel suppliers willing to be paid in kwacha.