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Zimbabwe Moves To Establish State Monopoly In Ailing Fuel Sector

The government of Zimbabwe has announced a ban on schemes that provided for the purchase of gasoline and diesel fuel using foreign currency or vouchers, causing consternation among nongovernmental organizations and embassy officials.

Economist warned that the move, meant to give the government a tighter grip on hard currency flows, could backfire and leave Zimbabwe with even tighter fuel supplies.

Trade Minister Obert Mpofu announced the ban on hard-currency fuel transactions through the state media and said individuals or organizations holding fuel coupons have to use them to obtain fuel within two weeks.

Harare-based Caltex, a main source of fuel coupons for embassies and international organizations, Internet-based, which takes orders for fuel coupons from Zimbabweans in the diaspora on behalf of friends and relatives in the country, told VOA that they have halted the sale of coupons with immediate effect.

Mukuru said it will not make refunds to those who are unable to use their coupons.

A senior government official said the plan was hatched by the Joint Operation Command, which is made up of senior officers from the police, the army, the Central Intelligence Organization and the prison system.

The source said Harare wants to wrest control of the strategic fuel sector away from the private sector. The government has accused gasoline and diesel sellers of driving parallel markets in fuel and foreign exchange, causing inflation to soar.

Harare is expected to demand that non-governmental organizations, embassies and international organizations turn to National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, or NOCZIM as it is known in the country, to obtain fuel.

Economist John Robertson told reporter Blessing Zulu that he expected the latest government strategem would backfire and intensify the fuel scarcity.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations met in Harare on Thursday to discuss the implications of the latest government directive.

Advocacy and Communications Manager Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organization said the directive will hinder NGO operations.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...