There is an outcry among Zimbabwean motorists over expensive petrol available from local service stations which is giving them far less mileage with their cars than before.
The outcry has reached a crescendo with drivers complaining that for example a full tank of petrol that used to take them from Masvingo to Harare (300km) and back is empty by the time one completes one way of the journey.
There is also strong concern that the heavily blended fuel is drastically reducing the lifespan of vehicles by damaging car engines.
Former Zaka Central MP and current NetOne board member Paradzai Chakona said a few months back, 20 litres of petrol would take him from Masvingo to Harare in his 2.5litre Toyota Land Cruiser but he now requires over 35 litres of petrol to do the same trip.
There is strong suspicion that Government has secretly increased blending of petrol with ethanol from 20% or E20 to 40% (E40) in a bid to overcome the fuel crisis that has engulfed the country for over a year now.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Engineer Gloria Magombo dismissed allegations that Government has lifted maximum blending levels from 20% to 40%. She however, said that there was need for the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) to investigate the matter.
ZERA spokesperson, Gladman Njanji said he could not get clearance from the CEO Eddington Mazambani whom he said was not present to comment.
A spokesperson for the Association of Transporters in Masvingo David Masomere said that they are engaging Government to reduce the price of fuel depending on its quality since the one available has reduced mileage compared to the E15.
Some analysts said in extreme cases, the current petrol can just do 6km per litre instead of 10 or 12km per litre for an average car. The situation differs from service station to service station and motorists are shunning fuel from certain companies as their petrol is the worst.
In Masvingo one service station which cannot be named for legal reasons has become notorious for what is now nicknamed glorious waters.
Most commuter drivers and motorists who spoke to The Mirror said they only buy petrol from the Service Station when the town is completely dry.
“Petrol from the service Station is now called glorious waters. The petrol doesn’t take you far and I only buy fuel from the service station when the city is completely dry. I would rather queue for petrol for days at other service stations than fill my tank at this service station” said Philip Chings a taxi driver at Simrac Supermarket in the CBD.
Commuter transporters told The Mirror that the blended petrol is hurting their business.
A commuter driver who declined to be named said he used to do Gweru-Masvingo trips with 20litres and now he needs almost double the amount of fuel for the same journey. Gweru to Masvingo via Mvuma is 187km.
“The quality of fuel has deteriorated and we now require more litres to cover small distances. Petrol from this service station is worse compared to Total Service Station fuel; I used to buy 20l of fuel which would reach Harare but now I need more than 35l,” said Chakona.
Thomas Matewe who plies from town to Masvingo’s low density suburb of Rhodene using a Toyota Noah said a litre of petrol would last him 16km but is now only able to do 10km.
‘’The fuel does not last long, you have to park your car under a shed because if you park under the sun the fuel will evaporate, the first bar of fuel can even fall before you travel, it’s useless”, said Chings.
A local driver who pirates from Mucheke to town using a Nissan Caravan said he used to travel 16km with 1litre but now its 8km per litre.
Engen Service Station official, Beauty Kujinga said that the quality of their petrol has not changed.
At Glow Service Station the pump manager Lisa Chiriseri referred The Mirror to the regional manager identified as Chinhara whose cellphone was not reachable until the time of going to print.