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Fuel and medical shortages are starting to hurt Zimbabwe

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HARARE – Petroleum and medical supplies shortages have hit Zimbabwe’s economy, with operators rushing to the central bank for allocations to ensure that the current crisis does not bring the country’s economy and businesses to a standstill.

Fuel has already run low at the weekend, with most filling stations running empty and attendants warning of further shortages.

Total was now reserving petrol only for its prepaid card holders.

Smaller operators have also complained of higher taxes.

Mining companies have also been affected by the foreign currency shortages.

New directive

Johan Theron, the spokesperson for Impala Platinum – which owns Zimplats and jointly controls Mimosa mine together with Sibanye Gold – said a new directive that miners cede 80% of forex earnings to the central bank would impact on suppliers.

“This is a recent development, not sure the full impact has manifested and/or is fully understood at this time.

“We spend some 80% of revenue locally, best I can see is a material risk that downstream suppliers will be severely affected as they, in turn, mostly import goods and spend far less locally,” Theron said.

Mining companies in Zimbabwe have complained to Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa about delayed payments and failure by suppliers to speedily settle transactions for imports.

“We urge the Minister of Finance to ensure that the huge contribution that is coming from the mining sector in so far as foreign exchange is concerned, should be properly directed to activities of a productive nature,” Chidakwa said.

The Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA) grouping of doctors has also implored the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to prioritise “invoices for drug suppliers” as the liquidity crisis in Zimbabwe heightens.

There have been reports in the past week that Zimbabwe has run out of crucial anti-retroviral medications for HIV and Aids patients.

Strict priority list

The RBZ uses a strict priority list for payments settled using foreign currency, but delays in effecting the transactions have started to impact on companies and other organisations.

There are concerns that the list – which prioritises dividends, energy and medications among others – is having no impact.

“We are informed that drug importers may fail to meet the country’s requirements due to non-remittances to suppliers #RBZ, we say not again,” ZiMA added.

Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya and Chinamasa say forex resources are constrained and blame externalisation and low productivity for the foreign payments constraints.