The announcement by SAPREF, South Africa's largest fuel refinery, that it has suspended its operations due to force majeure, will undoubtedly impact the already critical fuel situation in South Africa, and particularly in our inland provinces. The primary cause of the shutdown is directly linked to safety concerns arising from the criminal violence, looting and riots that have crippled KwaZulu-Natal, and are now spreading to other provinces.
SAPREF produces 30% of South Africa's refined fuel, and, combined with the already closed ASTRON, ENREF and PETROSA refineries, means that only two refineries - providing less than 30% of South Africa's normal fuel production - are still operational. This will create an increased demand for imported refined fuel, which will then need to be transported to the inland provinces - in all likelihood through the Transnet pipeline from Durban to Gauteng. Given that this pipeline crosses through some of the most contested terrain in terms of rioting and looting, and has in the past been the subject of numerous incidents of theft, it seems likely that this too will soon be closed.
Unless and until South Africa's security situation normalizes, this means that there are likely to be fuel shortages in the short to medium term, especially in Gauteng, the North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. In the meantime, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, is missing in action.
It is vital that Minister Mantashe immediately take steps to ensure a consistent and viable supply of refined fuels for all of South Africa's provinces. In this regard, we call on the Minister to urgently present a plan of action to secure and restore South Africa's refining capacity, to maintain and secure the Transnet pipeline and to reassure our people that they will have paraffin, petrol and diesel through the winter months.
Our economy cannot afford any additional obstacles being thrown in its path. Every day without a guaranteed supply of refined fuel is another nail in the coffin of the economic recovery we so desperately need.
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