Some informal dealers of Liquefied Petroleum (LP) gas are resorting to selling the highly flammable commodity in their homes during the Covid-19 lockdown, exposing lives and property to extreme danger as they avoid detection from security officials enforcing lockdown rules, 263Chat Business has established.
The extremely dangerous trend has mainly been observed in high density residential townships such as Ruwa, Mabvuku, Highfields, Glen Norah and Highfields among others were security forces are enforcing social distancing rules by disrupting vending activities.
"I cannot go to the shops at my usual selling spot because soldiers and police are not tolerating vendors and they don't want to see anyone loitering around the shops," an informal LP gas trader in Ruwa told this publication.
Ordinarily, LP gas resellers should operate in a Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) certified gas station.
The station should be 2.5 metres x 2.4 metres square shaped structure made of iron bars, covered by chrome deck sheets and situated at an openair space for precaution.
"Its been a long and tough three weeks since lockdown started and we are now facing food shortages in homes and the month end is approaching, rentals will be due soon. So how do you expect us to survive if we don't sell," said another dealer who revealed himself as Patrick.
The informal dealers of LP gas have also been castigated for taking advantage of the traveling restrictions currently enforced by setting exorbitant prices for the commodity in recent weeks.
Some are selling as high as US 2 per kilogram from average selling price of around US 1.20 or equivalent in local currency.
The situation has become common sight across the big cities in the country as demand for LP gas continues to grow due to its affordability as compared to electricity usage for cooking.
A member of the Bulawayo Vendors Association, Mike Ndiweni told 263Chat that they were aware of such practices and have since alerted the energy regulator to educate vendors about the dangers of selling LP gas in homes.
"We have engaged the regulator, ZERA to educate vendors in the dangers of selling such substances like LP gas or any other gases in such a manner and we don't encourage that," he said while calling on government to treat small dealers of LP gas as essential services providers during this lockdown.
Most homes are now using LP gas for cooking and heating as they seek to minimize usage of electricity which is now expensive.
"We feel that since gas is an important commodity perhaps government is supposed to gazette it among essential commodities and allow people to sell it because having to sell it in their houses is very dangerous," added Ndiweni.
However Zera has been conducting awareness campaigns and trainings across the country on handling and selling LP gas.
But informal traders who are not registered traders of gas have sprouted across the country hence making it difficult to assess compliance to safety guidelines.
Of late many have been lost and many left injured following mishandling of LP gas leading to explosions.
In January this year, two people died and three were sustained serious injuries when LP gas and petrol that was kept in the house exploded in Nkayi, Matebelalend North.
There are plenty unreported causes of gas leakages that have taken place in recent times leaving many injured.