Malawi police clash with Karonga vendors: Impound K900,000 worth of fuel

In a crackdown exercise on illegal storage and sales of fuel around Karonga bus depot in the northern Malawi, Police at Ipyana camp, on Wednesday engaged in day light running battles with fuel vendors.

In the process police managed to snatch about 1, 340 liters of petrol packaged in 67 gallons each containing 20 liters but failed to arrest any vendor in tense situation that forced other businesses at Karonga market to a standstill.

Karonga Police Officer-In-Charge Senior Assistant Commissioner Peter Foster Mangani confirmed to have snatched such an amount of fuel which would cost K943, 360.00 at the current pump price of K704.25 per liter at a filling station.

He explained the fuel consignment is currently being kept at Karonga Police Station pending the next course of action.

Black fuel market
Black fuel market

Mangani said the exercise was geared to ensure public safety.

“The bus depot and its surrounding is not a designated place for selling fuel. So the vendors are illegally conducting the business which risks lives of people and property to fire incidences,” said Mangani.

Even though police managed to impound the fuel concernment, they made no arrests on allegation that the vendors escaped.

In the exercise, it was not all rosy for the police as they moved out with a damaged vehicle. The police vehicle, a Toyota land Cruiser with registration number MP2055 had one of its rear window glass broken.

“Some people pelted stone on us and broke a rear window glass and left the windscreen with cracks,” complained Mangani.

The breaking of the window glass has the irked the police who have since issued a stern warning to people fond of pelting stones at the police in public disorders.

He warned that they did not want to use tear gas, guns or force to avoid injuries.

In a random interview some vendors and minibus drivers who spoke on condition of anonymity said that fuel at the black market is cheaper than at a filling station.

“We  buy five liters at K3000 on black market while at a filling station the same quantity is bought at K3 500 which is a loss to us as business people, what we want is profit,” said one vendor.

They claimed that the floatation of kwacha brings instability in fuel prices which affect their business.

“Now we cannot plan our businesses well or invest something into the transport business because prices of fuels are changing now and then,” they complained.

Since the local currency in Malawi was devaluated prices of most commodities including fuel are on the raise which makes the fuel vendors to take advantage of cashing in.

Traders have been buying fuel in bulk from filling stations or importing the commodity from elsewhere in order to resell it on the black market.

The fuel shortage rocking the country has sparked a boom in black market fuel sales.

But recently a court in Karonga freed some men who were arrested after being found with 800 litres of fuel.

The magistrate ruled that the lack of steady fuel supply in the country necessitated such transportation of the commodity.

Street vending mushroomed in Malawi when the regime of former president Bakili Muluzi liberalised the economy in the early 1990s.

Muluzi encouraged informal trading, saying it was part of his poverty eradication programme.

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