Mutharika orders oil companies not to offload fuel

Malawi’s President Mutharika has ordered oil companies not to offload fuel in the capital Lilongwe until after the Heads of State COMESA summit finishes on Sunday.

Malawi is hosting the 15th COMESA heads of state summit, amidst fuel and drug shortages. Out of nineteen invited heads of states, only five have turned up, perhaps a sign of how isolated the Malawi leader has become.

“Total  Malawi was supposed to offload fuel in all its filling stations today (Saturday) but we just got an order that the President does not want his guests to see queues until after the COMESA summit,” one of  senior officials at Total  Malawi said.

The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority declined to comment when asked yesterday.

Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati feigned ignorance about the Presidential order when contacted for comment.

Meanwhile in the cities, where cars queue round the block for scarce fuel, Mutharika’s reputation has taken a major knock.

“This man is arrogant and selfish…I need fuel because I have to travel home for a funeral that why I am queuing and now he wants me to wait,” said  Isack  Kamwendo adding that one of the petrol attendants told them about the order.

Another motorist at Gemini filling station in city centre was riled to hear that the President has ordered that no fuel should be offloaded.

“This is arrogance at its best…I really don’t know what to do with this man until 2014,” said Madalisto Phiri.

“He is spending a fortune on the COMESA summit just to be its chairman, the same money could have been used to import more fuel and drugs,” said another motorist Samson Malenga.

Malawi has been failing to import enough fuel because it can no longer afford to meet the increasing demand.  It now costs Malawi around US$300 million annually to import fuel into landlocked Malawi – almost an equivalent of tobacco earnings in the last two years.

With low revenues from tobacco and the increased demand for fuel and foreign exchange, Mutharika is failing to solve the problem.

Last month he sacked his minister of energy for telling Malawians to get used to problem of fuel shortages.

In July, civil society groups organised rallies against Mutharika demanding that he solves the fuel and forex shortages and restores diplomatic relations with the UK – Malawi’s biggest bilateral donor.

The result; 20 people killed by security forces in clashes that ensued.

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