MUTARE– Energy regulatory authorities have admitted to failing to deal with rampant illegal fuel dealers who are either smuggling the precious liquid into the country or buying and selling from truck drivers.
Speaking on Friday at a legal clinic organised by the Zimbabwe Regulatory Authority (ZERA) for the National Prosecuting Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, ZERA Communications Director Gladman Njanji said legal provisions leave a lot of grey areas that enable illegal fuel vendors to persist with their unscrupulous activities.
“We are not happy with current fining schedules that range as below as $100 for fuel dealers who are making huge profits from the sale of illegal fuel. These fines are not commendable in terms of deterrence.
“The sentences sometimes are up to the discretion of the magistrate, but we feel that the National Prosecuting Authority should chip in and apply for forfeiture of fuel as this could be more deterrent than the small fines,” he said.
Njanji said part of the headache that is caused by the fuel traders is that they operate in the underground and current provisions only criminalize licensed fuel traders.
He said due to their secretive tactics fuel traders were a step ahead of policing agents hence a need for collaborative efforts amongst government departments.
“It is difficult to prosecute by nature of their operations to prosecute them as one would need to go on the ground and raid them, but once this is done there are official ways stipulated by the Statutory Instruments on how to charge illegal fuel traders,” said Njanji.
Members of the NPA and ZRP also expressed concerns that there could be well resourced fuel rackets that work around legal provisions to ensure that fuel is smuggled into the country.
NPA member Mr Musarurwa said the courts have dealt with complex issues where clearing agents, Ministry of Mines and companies representatives to circumvent legal provisions.
“There is a possibility that this could be a well resourced network of criminals involving some corrupt elements I presume from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, clearing agents and company representatives to bring in fuel illegally into the country,” he said.
ZERA acting CEO, Eddington Mazambani, said there was need for government agencies to collaborate to curb the increasing illegal fuel activities
“This workshop as a precious opportunity for the three (3) important State institutions to engage and partner with each other in a bid to create and consolidate good relations which will see us joining forces in confronting criminal elements in the energy industry of the country,” she said.
Illegal fuel dealers have flooded Mutare with cheap imports from Mozambique selling at a flat rate of $1 per litre, threatening existing fuel suppliers in the sector.