Fuel crisis threaten freight industry jobs (Zimbabwe)

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Fuel crisis threatens freight industry jobs

Financial Gazette February 3, 2000 By Staff Reporter

Bulawayo - Zimbabwe's multi-million-dollar freight industry warned this week it might retrench hundreds of workers because of a critical shortage of diesel which has paralysed its operations.

Freight executives said business valued at several million dollars was being lost daily because workers, many of them drivers, could not move exports to their destinations as a result of the diesel shortage which entered its second straight month this week. They warned of retrenchments in an industry that employs thousands of workers and earns $100 million annually if a permanent solution was not found immediately.

"Most of the haulage fleet in the country is not operational. We are not able to deliver cargo in time," said Rhette Hill, chief executive officer of the Shipping and Forwarding Agents' Association.

The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, the country's sole fuel importer, is facing a serious cash flow crisis which has led to erratic diesel supplies, threatening to cripple the sagging economy. The company's problems have been compounded by a critical shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe because fuel suppliers, all foreign, are demanding cash up-front.

"Drivers are spending considerable time queueing for diesel instead of shipping out exports," Hill said, adding that exports were the hardest hit. "We need to sort out this mess before we see some businesses closing."

Transporters and other users of diesel within the vicinity of the Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts are understood to be buying their fuel from Messina in South Africa and Francistown in Botswana. The leader of the Affirmative Action Group, Matson Hlalo, who operates a fleet of haulage tracks, said his members were in trouble. Unless diesel was made available urgently, his members would consider retrenching thousands of workers.

"It's difficult for us to operate. We are reluctant sometimes to take orders because we are not sure if we will get the fuel to deliver the goods. Some of our members have failed to deliver cargo because of the present shortage," he said.

The leader of the Zimbabwe Indigenous Freight Forwarders' Association, Caleb Chihota, said: "What is happening is that imports and exports have been severely affected. Some of our members are failing to move cargo.

"Most truckers have grounded their vehicles. As we speak, imports and exports are decreasing. Our recommendation is that the government should quickly find a solution to the present crisis otherwise we will see some people losing jobs."

Hill said imports were less affected than exports because truckers were buying fuel outside Zimbabwe.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), February 04, 2000


Fears of violence as political tension rises in crisis hit Zimbabwe

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