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Fuel shortage cripples fishing operations in Kariba
Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The Herald (Harare) by Masimba Karikoga

The shortage of diesel in Kariba has crippled operations with half of the entire fleet of boats belonging to fishermen in the area grounded.

As a result, fishing companies and co-operatives are being forced to resort to buying fuel from the black market.

The official pump price for diesel and fuel is $200 and $450 respectively.

However, the commodity is going for $1 000 and $1 500 per litre of diesel and petrol respectively on the black market.

Several fishermen said the scarcity of fuel was having a negative impact on their operations with most saying they had been forced to withdraw a number of boats from fishing in the vast lake due to the unavailability of diesel.

"We received our last fuel supplies on May 23. Since then, we have not seen any truck from the country's oil distribution companies," said Mr Mpumelelo Nkomo of Zvatakarwira Fishing Co-operative in the Chiwara area of Kariba.

He added that fuel supplies were cut without notice and the fishermen were in the dark as to when they will be resumed

The co-operative, which has a fleet of four boats was now using only two because it was failing to secure enough diesel.

"We intend to export some of the kapenta but unfortunately, operations have gone down to the extent that we are even failing to supply the domestic market.

" We are pleading to the Government to provide us with fuel allocations to enable us to increase our operations. We can not import fuel because we are only supplying the domestic market," he said.

Several other co-operatives, most of which are headed by veterans of the liberation struggle, called for Government's assistance.

"We are still upcoming entrepreneurs and we need Government to nurture us in order to grow.

"The Government must direct the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe to provide us with fuel allocations to enhance our operations," said another official.

Established players also bemoaned the prevailing situation and urged the Government to intervene.

Officials at Zambezi Proteins said operations have been affected by lack of diesel.

Fishing is usually undertaken at night and a single standard boat takes between 80 and 100 litres of diesel per one expedition.

As if the diesel woes were not enough, the fishermen said they regularly lost their catch to pirates from Zambia.

Some of the fishing co-operatives said daring Zambian thieves literally stole anything from their catch to diesel, which they carry in cans while on hunting expeditions.

However, piracy is said to have remained low in recent months owing to increased police and army patrols in the lake.

Houseboat operators said business had gone down due to a drop in tourist arrivals.

"Most of our boats have been lying idle because of a drop in tourist arrivals and diesel shortage.

"In some cases, we have failed to cater for guests who attend conferences at some of the major hotels because of the diesel shortage," said a worker from one of the houseboat companies.


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