HARARE (Reuters) - A drastic 150 percent overnight rise in Zimbabwe’s fuel prices failed on Sunday to ease a nationwide petrol and diesel shortage caused by a lack of hard currency.
Most service stations still had no fuel to sell to motorists who have been sleeping in their vehicles to queue. Some said they were awaiting an official notice from the regulatory authority (ZERA).
Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi tweeted that commodity price volatility “will be temporary before goods prices normalize”.
The acute shortage of U.S. dollars has made it hard for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to import not only fuel but also drugs and other goods.
Mnangagwa himself was on Sunday setting off on a five-nation tour that starts in Russia and ends at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 after it was wrecked by hyperinflation, and adopted the greenback and other hard currencies such as sterling and the South African rand.
But now there is not enough hard currency to back up more than $10 billion in electronic funds trapped in local bank accounts, prompting demands from businesses and civil servants for cash that can be deposited and used to make payments.
Mnangagwa has said his government will not let businesses raise prices but they have been doing so anyway, arguing that they have no choice but to buy dollars at a premium on the black market.
Inflation is already at a 10-year high of 31 percent and, in the past two weeks, public transport firms have tripled fares citing a shortage of fuel, which some have been buying on the black market.
An assistant at a service station owned by Zuva Petroleum said: “We have not received any supplies since Thursday evening but we are hoping we will get a delivery before end of the day.”
A ZERA spokesman said all fuel companies had been notified of the new prices.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said it planned a national strike from Monday in protest at the “insensitive and provocative” fuel price increase, although such calls have in the past not been widely followed.
Teachers, who are not represented by ZCTU, are planning a nationwide strike from Jan. 22, and civil servants have threatened to join them.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Kevin Liffey