Fuel from Zambia abused, Malawi to pay

The first consignment of fuel which has been given by the Zambian government to ease mobility during the funeral of Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika is said to have been abused, Nyasa Times has established.

Investigations by Nyasa Times indicate that Office of President and Cabinet through PVHO were issuing  special vouchers to  fill vehicles being used during the funeral. But some trucks were reported refuelling many times and unloading elsewhere, hoarding the fuel after getting multiple vouchers.

Cabinet resolved that the fuel from Zambia should be sold through private retail outlets. The proceeds realised was expected to be used to foot fuel bills and other expenses incurred during the funeral.

Sold at the current pump prices, it means the five million litres given by Zambia could fetch almost K1.9 billion (about $11.4 million).

The fuel was given to state-owned National Oil Company (Nocma) – which is a two man company led by Robert Mdeza.  And the contract to supply the fuel was given to Puma Energy.

Government officials said the fuel should have been given to Petroleum Importers Limited to handle it.

Chairperson of the Cabinet committee organising Mutharika’s funeral, Henry Mussa, said government had designated a filling station in each of the three regions for refuelling using OPC vouchers.

A source in the ministry of Energy said Nocma, which was established to oversee importation of fuel and manage the strategic reserves – was set by late president Mutharika as a source of looting from government coffers.

During a meeting with new President of Malawi Joyce Banda in Lilongwe last week, Zambia’s Mines and Energy minister Christopher Yaluma said the two countries will discuss the payment soon after the mourning period.

Zambia offered the fuel, valued at about $5 million (about K835 million), as a gift but changed statements after an outcry from its citizens in the same manner the Government of Malawi handled the maize deal to Zimbabwe whose payment is said to be still outstanding.

Yaluma said the two governments will work out modalities and terms of repayment for the supply of the commodity.

Malawians have been experiencing pain of queuing at filling stations up to wee hours as a result of its crippling fuel shortage. The country consumes one million litres of fuel on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, President Banda is being advised not to “nationalise the issue of fuel in the country” but allow PIL to deal with the purchase of the commodity.

Commentators also say the US$10 million which has been injected by the South African government to help government import fuel should be handled with care and not using the cartel of the previous regime – apparently referring to the Lhomwe belt network.

According to Energy Minister Goodall Gondwe, Malawi could no longer access credit facilities for fuel importation because it lost its creditworthiness.

Malawi needs $30 million to import fuel every month; translating into an annual bill of $360 million.

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