Councils blamed for illegal gas dealers
THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) says failure by local authorities to avail working space for gas retailers in the country is to blame for delays in formalising the trade.
In the face of a general electricity cost burden, a majority of households now prefer using gas and other cheaper alternatives such as firewood and jelly fuels.
Local authorities are responsible for granting permission to gas retailers to trade at their chosen spaces. However, the energy regulator alleges that such framework does not exist in councils.
Engineer Andrew Guri responsible for petroleum at Zera said their efforts to license gas retailers were progressing at a slow pace. As a result, he said, the authority had only formalised about 20 percent of the country’s gas retailers, up from 10 percent at the beginning of the year.
“There has been a slight improvement although on the slower side. The challenge we have been facing pertains to local authorities’ approval,” said Engineer Guri.
“Local authorities do not have the framework for granting gas retailers the permission to set up shop and as a result the retailers set themselves up anywhere.
“For now we have licensed about 20 percent of all the gas retailers but with land use clearance, we could do more.”
He said Zera could only grant licences when local authorities approve the site and the failure by local authorities to approve the chosen locations was counterproductive to the authority’s efforts to formalise.
Comment could not be obtained from the Bulawayo City Council.
In May, Engineer Guri said there was a positive shift towards compliance by wholesalers who import gas from South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia and all gas wholesalers were duly licensed.
Prohibitive licensing fees also deter LPG retailers from formalising. A retailer would have to get licences from the Fire Brigade, local authorities, Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and lastly the Zera licence.
An EMA licence costs $603,75 per year, while the Fire Brigade licence is charged according to the size of the workspace.
An inspection by the Fire Brigade costs $15 and the city council’s charge is hinged on the findings of the fire service. The Zera licence, which is the last a retailer should secure in the registration process, costs $50 a year.
Zera this year held a nationwide drive to train gas retailers during seminars in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.
The energy regulator is also working closely with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to raise consumer awareness on LPG and the standards that should be adhered to in the handling of the gas. — @BiancaMlilo