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Illegal fuel dealers thrive as crisis bites

by Yoliswa Dube-Moyo
18 Mar 2020 at 06:41hrs | Views
ILLEGAL fuel dealers continue to thrive in the city with new selling spots sprouting due to the ongoing fuel crisis.

The latest crop of illegal fuel dealers seemingly make no effort to conceal their dealings as plastic containers, jerrycans and funnels line the streets in the central business district.

The fuel peddlers are heavily concentrated along Hebert Chitepo Street where they target public transport vehicles, especially commuter omnibuses and taxis.

They also operate from areas close to service stations where they lure motorists to buy from them instead of joining long queues waiting for their turn to fill up.  

Once in a while, one can meet an arrested dealer in the company of plainclothes police officers, after an arrest has been made. However, there are too many dealers and their modus of operation has become so sophisticated such that it is difficult to link them to the crime.  

A five-litre container of petrol and diesel was going for R100 or US$7 on the black market and at a licensed service station that sells in forex, five litres of diesel was going for US$6,45 and five litres of petrol is being sold at US$7,15.

One of the fuel dealers who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity said some of them get fuel from service stations. He said it was hard to get the fuel from the service stations as an individual, hence they were conniving with procurement officers or buyers from companies who facilitate that they get fuel by fraudulently using a company name. The fuel is poured into drums and diverted to the black market.

"People that buy fuel for companies are making money. We pay them so that when they come to buy fuel on an account, they treble figures then the amount due is receipted separately. We then take our share and sell it to make a profit," said the fuel dealer.

He said some of the fuel comes from Botswana via the Plumtree Border Post as well as through illegal crossing points. The fuel dealer, however, said supplies from Botswana were low due to a clampdown on smugglers.  

"Police are making things difficult at the crossing points. But if we have a bulk order, we can facilitate it for you, money talks," he said. Some fuel dealers said they make use of loopholes in the law to evade arrest when caught with fuel.  

"It is easy to get away, when police come, we tell them we are helping a friend who ran out of fuel. If we use jerrycans, they cannot do anything. Being found in possession of petrol or diesel is not a crime. But when we use plastic containers, then that's the only trouble as fuel must not be put in plastic containers. But there are ways of talking and in the street if you know the language, you survive," said a dealer who operates along Five Street near Busuman Service Station.  

Bulawayo police Spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police were going to beef up their presence in the central business district and across the city to curb the rampant illegal fuel deals.


Source - chronicle

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