Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Fuel blues, panic bank withdrawals-just like Zimbabwe!

Posted by CM on June 20, 2007

Over the several years of Zimbabwe’s economic woes, I did my share of spending days and nights in fuel queues. It was not at all unusual, having spent hours slowly pushing one’s car towards the station, to have the fuel be declared “finished” within a few metres of the pump. Nor was it unusual to hear that under the cover of darkness, to selected customers and at a choice price, fuel could still be had from the station after the queues had disappeared. And every Zimbabwean motorist has at some critical, desperate point been forced to pay many times the normal going price of fuel to those sharks who can always mysteriously access it.

I also recall without much relish the long snaking lines at Harare banks even during fairly normal times, let alone the periodic crunch times when there were “shortages” of currency or when there was some reason for the public to want large amounts of their deposits at once.

The following reports will therefore have a familiar ring to Zimbabweans :

Fuel scarcity: Black market booms
Published: Wednesday, 20 Jun 2007

The scarcity of fuel took a new dimension on Tuesday as black marketers experienced an unusual boom. Hundreds of youths were seen carrying jerrycans on R.B. Dikko Road, a stone’s throw from Louis Edet House, the headquarters of the Police Force. Youths numbering over 300 converged on the popular junction as early as 6am to carry out their business openly and unmolested. They lined the two sides of the road with various sizes of jerrycans filled with petrol, soliciting for buyers.

The booming trade caused heavy vehicular traffic along the road as most motorists parked their vehicles indiscriminately, scrambling to purchase the exorbitant product. Though the government on Monday night announced a new price of N70 for a litre of petrol, the black marketers sold 10 and 20 litres of the product for N3,500 and N7,000 respectively.

When our correspondent asked some of the youths how they got the product, one of them said he ought the petrol at night from some of the filling-stations around. However, officials of the two filling-stations claimed that the two stations had not had any supplies for days.

Another Zimbabwean-sounding report :

Bank customers in panic withdrawals

Panic withdrawals were pronounced in major banks yesterday as the strike over the increase in prices of petroleum products begin today. As early as 8a.m customers were seen making withdrawals. The queues forced major banks to engage more hands to assist in paying customers.

Many government workers abandoned their offices to withdraw some money to stockpile food stuff and other necessary items. The situation at the filling stations was also chaotic as motorists, motorcycle riders and other fuel users were on long-queues.

Both reports are of the situation in Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies. The strike is to protest an increase in fuel prices to reduce the heavy subsidy the government pays to keep the oil-producing country’s main commodity fairly affordable to its own citizens, many of whom do not believe oil benefits would trickle down to them any other way. The bank queues and panic withdrawals are effects of the strike.

Except for the giveaway of the unfamiliar names and currency, these reports might as well have been about Zimbabwe at any time in the last seven years or so! Except of course Zimbabwe has the “excuse” of not being an oil producer. But it could be argued that we are similar in both countries failing to manage their respective natural resources for the benefit of their citizens.

Poverty, hardship and misery in the midst of potential plenty!


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