By Wahard Betha
Cartels illegally trafficking the country’s petroleum products to neighbouring countries face criminal charges and other necessary legal actions once found indulging in the malpractice, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) has warned.
The warning comes amid the realization that Malawi’s fuel is cheaper and reaps good profits when sold across the borders.
Speaking during Face the Nation press briefing, MERA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Henry Kachanje said investigations to understand the criminal practice are underway and measures to contain the situation including intensifying border controls, are being put in place.
“We have done fuel price assessments across the region and have found out that ours is cheaper than those in other countries and we have subsequently launched investigations into alleged smuggling to other countries where it is sold at higher prices,” said the Chief.
The CEO revealed that acting on this information MERA banned the purchase of fuel in gallons of over 20 liters from all filling stations in the country.
“One of the implication is that this can deplete the fuel that the country has because it is being taken to other countries instead of being used here in Malawi,” he observed and added: “The other implication is that we buy this fuel using our forex and any smuggling activity means the country is losing its forex for nothing.”
Kachanje parried away public fears that the country was running out of fuel.
“In terms of availability, we have petroleum product that are available. We are safe and we have fuel tracks that are travelling into the country,” he said explaining that as a regulator, MERA was monitoring factors that affect the adjustment of fuel prices.
“Official communication about the fuel availability or price changes only comes from MERA,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola, attributed the fuel talk in social circles to be overstated because global economic trends including the Russia – Ukraine war
However, his counterpart, Gospel Kazako, the Minister of Information, despite not being specific on the dates, hinted on the likelihood of a fuel price increase in the country.
Since October, 2021, petrol in Malawi has been selling at MK1,150 per litre while other countries including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique and United Kingdom have had their prices hiked.