Fuel in­dus­try as­sures mo­torists

. . . as SA petroleum sec­tor strike rages on

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

FUEL de­liv­er­ies into Le­sotho have con­tin­ued de­spite an in­def­i­nite strike by South African trade unions de­mand­ing higher wages, the Petroleum Fund has said.

How­ever, the agency warned yes­ter­day this could change if the in­dus­trial ac­tions drags on.

Around 15 000 mem­bers af­fil­i­ated to Chem­i­cal, En­ergy, Pa­per, Print­ing, Wood and Al­lied Work­ers union (CEPPWAWU) downed tools last week Thurs­day, de­mand­ing a nine per­cent wage hike and one-year deal, while em­ploy­ers were of­fer­ing less.

Now CEPPWAWU and em­ploy­ers ap­pear to be play­ing the wait­ing game as to who will make the first call to come to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to Petroleum Fund Op­er­a­tions Man­ager, Le­bo­hang Makhoali, the agency was yet to re­ceive any re­ports of fuel short­ages in the coun­try. Le­sotho cur­rently im­ports an es­ti­mated 20 mil­lion litres of petroleum prod­ucts in the form of paraf­fin, diesel and petrol from South Africa ev­ery month.

“At the mo­ment, the strike has not af­fected Le­sotho. How­ever, we will def­i­nitely have a prob­lem if the strike con­tin­ues for a long time be­cause our fuel re­serves could then run out,” he said, adding the coun­try’s fuel stor­age reser­voirs had the ca­pac­ity to sup­ply the coun­try for only four days.

“How­ever, we are hop­ing it won’t come to that. Hope­fully, the sit­u­a­tion in South Africa will be re­solved sooner than later.”

Mr Makhoali said the gov­ern­ment’s plans to es­tab­lish a fuel stor­age fa­cil­ity was meant to ad­dress the prob­lem of fre­quent petroleum sec­tor in­dus­trial ac­tion in the neigh­bour­ing coun­try. Ear­lier this year, the gov­ern­ment called for prospec­tive con­sul­tants to sub­mit bids for car­ry­ing out a four-month fea­si­bil­ity study for the con­struc­tion of the reser­voir.

Mean­while, an of­fi­cial at petroleum com­pany, To­tal Le­sotho, yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times their fuel sup­plied had not been af­fected by the on­go­ing strike, adding their ser­vice sta­tions around the coun­try were op­er­at­ing as nor­mal.

How­ever, some Puma En­ergy fill­ing sta­tions around Maseru ex­pe­ri­enced fuel short­ages ear­lier in the week, al­though it was not im­me­di­ately clear if it was due to the strike. En­quiries by the Le­sotho Times to Puma En­ergy over the is­sue were fruit­less yes­ter­day, as the per­son au­tho­rised to talk to the me­dia was said to be out of the coun­try un­til next week.

For its part, Lephema Ex­ec­u­tive Trans­port, which has a con­tract with En­gen Petroleum to trans­port petroleum prod­ucts from South Africa to Le­sotho, said they were able to con­tinue as nor­mal de­spite the strike. The com­pany trans­ports fuel from En­gen Petroleum’s re­fin­ery in Dur­ban to its main de­pot in Le­sotho and then dis­trib­utes it across the coun­try.

“Our tankers are go­ing in and out of South Africa with­out any ma­jor chal­lenges at the mo­ment. How­ever, we are now more care­ful about the routes we use,” said Lephema Ex­ec­u­tive Trans­port Op­er­a­tions Man­ager God­frey Ep­naar in an in­ter­view yes­ter­day.

“Our driv­ers are be­ing es­corted in South Africa to en­sure their safety and that of our tankers. The ve­hi­cles are al­ways un­der 24 hour sur­veil­lance and we are con­stantly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the driv­ers if they en­counter any prob­lems on the road.”

LO­CAL ser­vice sta­tions have been op­er­at­ing as nor­mal de­spite the SA strike.

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