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SA halts Zimbabwe fuel supply

February 5, 2006

FuelHarare - South Africa has told fuel companies to immediately cease supplying their customers in Zimbabwe.

The department of minerals and energy has sent a circular to all fuel companies in South Africa telling them that with "immediate effect" they must cease supplying fuel to Zimbabwe, citing "refining problems".

Zimbabwean importers of fuel received e-mails this week from South African fuel companies accompanied by the letter from the department.

Most major fuel companies in Zimbabwe source their own fuel from South Africa because the government's National Oil Company of Zimbabwe is bankrupt and has been unable to find sufficient foreign currency for fuel since March last year.

Fuel is available from selected garages with coupons purchased in foreign currency, or with Zimbabwe dollars, at wildly fluctuating rates.

John Robertson, an economist, said Zimbabwe no longer had a strategic fuel stockpile and that there were no bulk importers left to bring in fuel via the pipeline from Beira, Mozambique, to the eastern Zimbabwe city of Mutare. "So we depend entirely on fuel from South Africa brought in by hundreds of small importers.

"I doubt we have more than a couple of weeks of stored fuel. The implications, of course, are grave and our efficiency levels will fall rapidly."

Published on the web by Sunday Independent on February 4, 2006.