Malawi will have to import the bulk of its fuel through Zimbabwe’s pipeline and ferry it home by road via Zambia following the escalating violence between government and armed rebels in Mozambique.
The decision’s revelation by stakeholders in the petroleum industry comes barely a day after a gang of militia burnt to ashes a tanker carrying petrol from the Indian Ocean port of Beira destined for Malawi.
Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) general manager Enwell Kadango said in an interview yesterday that stakeholders came up with the decision following the escalating cases of attacks in Mozambique.
Currently, Malawi uses three routes to import fuel from the Indian Ocean, namely Tete-Beira and Nacala in Mozambique as well as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Kadango, whose firm is a consortium of private fuel dealers, said that stakeholders, among them Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), agreed to start using the Zimbabwe-Zambia route to beef up fuel importation.
He said the new Zimbabwe-Zambia route will not have any negative implications on costs as the distance is almost similar to using the Dar es Salaam route.
Said Kadango: “The beauty is that there is a fuel pipeline from Beira to Harare, so we will be collecting the fuel from Harare and not Beira, which will be slightly cheaper.”
Mera spokesperson Fitina Khonje affirmed that there was a route assessment exercise in which the authority and other stakeholders took part to find alternatives.
She said stakeholders were also considering how to import more volumes of fuel through Dar es Salaam.
Over the years, Beira has been Malawi’s major access route to the ocean with about 60 percent of fuel coming through it, while Dar es Salaam took 30 percent and the remaining 10 percent coming through Nacala.
On average, 20 fuel tankers use the Beira route a day. The one burnt on Wednesday was caught in the line of fire between the insurgents and government forces. The damaged petrol is valued at about K23 million (about $33 000).
Malawian High Commissioner to Mozambique Frank Viyazghi said in an interview yesterday that during the Wednesday incident, four other Mozambican trucks were also burnt to ashes.
He also said one Mozambican driver was shot dead at the scene while Malawian drivers were taken to safety at a nearby police station.
In the meantime, chairperson of Transporters Association 2016 Malawi, Sameer Sulemani, has asked government to engage the Mozambican government in finding a solution to the insecurity.
Over the past months, the NR 1 Beira Highway has become deserted because of the fighting between government forces and armed bandits.
In April, four Malawians travelling to South Africa were killed while three others suffered serious injuries after they were attacked by unknown gunmen in Tete.
The Malawi Government has reached out to the Mozambican Government on the civil strife.
In April this year, President Peter Mutharika held a tripartite dialogue in Lilongwe with President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique and Zambia’s Edgar Lungu where the Mozambican leader acknowledged traces of instability in his country that forced some of its citizens to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, including Malawi.
Nyusi assured that his administration was devising means to ensure a return to peace so that the displaced thousands return home.