Mpanda — SERVICES at all fuel stations in both Rukwa and Katavi regions have not yet returned to normal as the acute shortage of gasoline remains critical for over two weeks now, causing great distress to residents as well as motorists here.
A survey by the 'Daily News on Saturday ' in Sumbawanga town in Rukwa region witnessed several 'bodaboda' drivers riding to and fro neighbouring Zambia at Nakonde town bordering Tunduma as well as Mbala town bordering Sumbawanga town carrying jerrycans full of gasoline on their bikes.
However, the fuel brought from Zambia to Sumbawanga is sold at hiked prices of between 7,000/- and 9,000/-. A cross-section of 'bodaboda' operators in Sumbawanga town and its environs admitted to have entered Mbala and Nakonde towns in neighbouring Zambia illegally in pursuit of an assortment of products including fuel which is sold at cheaper prices.
"Though we are spending many hours riding on rough roads from here in Sumbawanga all the way to Mbala and Nakonde towns in Zambia, we are however making super profits even after buying the gasoline at hiked price," said one of the traders, adding that they pocket between 4,000/- and 6,000/- as profit per litre.
"My Goodness, this a blessing in disguise", gushed Mr John Sikazwe , a bodaboda driver operating in Sumbawanga town. Most of the filling stations in Mpanda (Katavi), Sumbawanga and Namanyere in Nkasi District (Rukwa) are reported to have limited quantity of fuel in their main reserve tanks although diesel was in abundance mostly in Mpanda township and its neighbourhood.
However, most of the attendants at filling stations here declined to comment, saying that they were not representatives of oil companies as they have also been instructed by their bosses to keep their mouths shut. Due to this shortage, this paper has witnessed for the past four days residents in Sumbawanga town opting to walk on foot to their respective working places as commuter vehicle owners have decided to stop services.
The few commuter buses still operating do so at hiked fare of between 500/- and 300/- for adults and 150/- for children who are mostly students. In Mpanda Township, a random survey by our reporters has established that the situation has pushed up prices in the black market at alarming rates of between 2,500/- to 7,000/- per litre.
In Namanyere town in Nkasi District, it has been established recently that the region is still facing an acute shortage of kerosene for over two months now, a situation which has caused distress to the residents, mostly poor families. For the past five days, our reporter witnessed many motorcyclists popularly known here as 'bodaboda' lining up in long queues waiting for the commodity particularly in Mpanda and Namanyere towns.
"I subsequently top up with 1,000/- over the given price and it pays", said one of the vendors who introduced himself as Patrick Kikopela from Chanji area in the municipality. "This is bad to us because instead of generating profits in our business now we are incurring losses. We are forced to charge a normal fare of 1,000/- per route while we're buying a litre at over 7000/-", complained one bus driver who introduced himself as Adam Tailon.