You are currently viewing Kasenengwa: Illicit fuel vending persists

Kasenengwa: Illicit fuel vending persists

MONICA Tembo* is an illegal fuel vender of Mboza area in Kasenengwa district.
She covers a distance of over 40 kilometres (km) from Kasenegwa to Chipata district, where she fills containers with petrol and diesel for re-sale.
“I buy diesel and petrol from filling stations in Chipata. I sell it at a profit in Kasenengwa,” she says.
Ms Tembo started selling fuel on the black market in 2013.
Although aware of the repercussions of this illegal trade, she says it is a lucrative business that enables her to take her children to school.
She brags: “I make as much as K1,000 in a day when business is good.”
Ms Tembo shares that petrol, which she sells at K35 per litre, has a higher demand compared to diesel.
Dangerous as it is, she stores fuel in one of the rooms in her house. She admits that this is risky in case of a fire, especially that she uses plastic containers, which are unsuitable for the storage of fuel.
“I’m quite aware that storing fuel in a house is risky in the event of fire. That can lead to a serious accident,” she said in an interview.
However, Ms Tembo does not seem to care about her safety and that of her family.
Maxwell Zulu, a taxi driver, says fuel vendors in Kasenengwa take advantage of the lack of a filling station in the area to exploit motorists.
Mr Zulu said motorists are forced to buy the commodity from fuel vendors at exorbitant prices.
Unlike the fuel that is sold at gas stations, there is no price regulation on the black market in the district.
Mr Zulu further laments that motorists who depend on street vendors for fuel risk having their vehicles damaged because the quality of gas is compromised.
“These vendors that sell fuel on the black market exploit us a lot as their prices are not regulated by the ERB (Energy Regulation Board. In certain instances, they mix petrol with other substances to maximise profit without putting into regard the damage it will cause to our vehicles,’’ he lamented.
Mr Zulu said motorists frequently change fuel pumps on their vehicles due to the damage caused by unclean fuel.
He called on entrepreneurs to invest in a filling station in Kasenengwa to save the local people from exploitation and bad quality fuel which they buy from street vendors.
According to Mr Zulu, a litre of petrol is sold between K35 and K40, regardless of the recommended retail price by ERB.
Motorists in the district of Kasenengwa, which was delinked from Chipata district in 2018, have an option to buy fuel from authorised oil traders in the provincial headquarters.
One needs to drive for about 40km from Kasenengwa to Chipata, a journey that takes at least an hour.
“Motorists prefer buying fuel from the vendors as opposed to driving long distances to buy fuel from licensed retailers in Chipata district, which is the nearest,” Mr Zulu said.
He noted that those who buy from fuel vendors do so at their own peril because quality cannot be guaranteed.
“Sometimes the vendors mix petrol with kerosene to maximise profit without putting into consideration the damage it will cause to the vehicles,” he claimed.
However, the sale of fuel illegally by unauthorised dealers is generally common in rural areas, and the business goes on unabated.
Where such business is conducted, fuel is stored in unsafe structures, posing a serious hazard to community members.
The Petroleum Act Chapter 435 of the laws of Zambia provides for the search and inspection of any ship, vessel, vehicle, building or place in which petroleum is stored or carried.
It also states that storage facilities for fuel should be made of non-flammable materials approved by the relevant authorities.
ERB, a government institution, which is mandated to regulate oil prices and businesses, also ensures that fuel is sold in suitable safe places. However, the organisation mainly controls oil-marketing companies that run filling stations.
Fuel vendors in rural areas often get away with their illegal businesses.
However, the board has many times warned motorists against buying fuel from the black market.
When contacted, ERB public relations manager Namukolo Kasumpa said motorists must desist from buying fuel from unauthorised dealers as doing so puts them as well as the fuel handlers at risk.
Ms Kasumpa said her organisation has conducted sensitisation activities on a number of energy regulatory matters, including illegal fuel vending.
She said the illicit business is extremely dangerous to the people perpetrating it and the general public at large.
“It is also important to note that apart from selling fuel from unlicensed points being an illegal activity, it also poses a danger to the perpetrators of the vice and consumers as the safety of handlers and consumers cannot be guaranteed.
“This is because petroleum products are highly flammable and must be stored in ERB-approved facilities,’’ she noted.
The ERB official further said the board has no plans of changing the current monthly fuel price model in a bid to ensure fair and cost-reflective prices.
Ms Kasumpa said the fuel pricing model is not unique to Zambia, but is also in use in other countries in the region.
She said fuel prices are largely determined by oil prices on the international market and the value of the Kwacha against major convertible currencies such as the United States dollar.
“The ERB will continue to set fuel prices monthly in order to ensure fair and cost-reflective fuel prices in the country. The price of oil and the exchange rate are the major determinants of fuel prices because all the fuel that is sold in the country is imported from the international market, where it is sold in US dollars,’’ Ms Kasumpa noted.
Much as the sale of fuel on the black market is a source of livelihood for some families, it should be noted that the business is dangerous and can lead to loss of lives.
ERB is urging members of the public to engage in legal business activities that do not pose risks to their lives or those of their customers.


*Not real name