Confusion has arisen over the Zambia Governmentâ€™s supposed gift of five million litres of fuel to Malawi last week to ease mobility during the funeral of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Whereas the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in Lilongwe announced last Wednesday that the fuel was a donation, the Zambian media is quoting that countryâ€™s Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Christopher Yaluma as claiming it to be a loan and that only three million litres will be given.
In the OPC statement signed by Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka, the Government of Malawi said: â€œThe State President Joyce Banda wishes to express her deep gratitude to His Excellency Mr Michael Chilufya Sata, the government and people of Zambia for the kind and generous donation of five million litres of fuel made by the Zambian Government to the Government of Malawi.â€
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Goodall Gondwe on Tuesday maintained that five million litres of fuel was expected from Zambia and that government was told it was a gift.
Said Gondwe in an interview: â€œA gift may be something we will have to pay a little something for or free. The minister said terms will be discussed later.â€
But the lusakatimes.com of Sunday, April 15 2012 quoted Yaluma, who described Malawiâ€™s fuel crisis as serious on Saturday, as clarifying to journalists in Chipata that the Zambian Government had not donated the commodity.
He said Zambia had sold the fuel to Malawi at â€œflexible termsâ€ to ease mobility during the mourning period.
The online publication quoted the minister as saying Zambia was supplying one million litres of petrol and two million litres of diesel to ease persistent fuel shortages which date back to late 2008.
Said Yaluma: â€œThe fuel crisis in Malawi is bad. We found long queues in almost all filling stations.â€
He said the situation needed urgent attention before Malawiâ€™s economy is crippled.
Some sources have suggested that the Zambian Government may have 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.
Meanwhile, Cabinet on Tuesday resolved that the fuel from Zambia should be sold through private retail outlets. The proceeds realised will 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 could fetch almost K1.9 billion (about $11.4 million).
Henry Mussa, chairperson of the funeral organising committee, said for vehicles being used during the funeral, government will designate a filling station in each of the three regions where they will be refuelling using special vouchers from OPC.
Yaluma symbolically handed over the fuel to the Government of Malawi last Friday.