THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) issued more than 3 300 fuel retail licences over the last four years, reflecting a marked increase in the number of new service stations in the country in recent years.
Rapid expansion of the sector has been attributed to rising demand for petrol and diesel, as well as Government initiatives to attract investment in the industry.
“Zera licensed a total of 910 fuel stations in the 2023 licensing year,” said Zera chief executive Mr Edington Mazambani.
“The regulator has witnessed a continuous growth in the number of licensed fuel stations from 2020 to date.
“In total, 733 fuel stations were licensed in 2020; 848 fuel stations were licensed in 2021; and 881 fuel stations were licensed in 2022.”
Zimbabwe requires at least three million litres and four million litres of petrol and diesel per day, respectively.
Demand, however, continues to rise on account of an economy growing at an accelerated pace, driven by expansion of the mining, agriculture and infrastructure development sectors.
Development of new urban settlements and new roads has also created more strategic locations for the establishment of service stations, according to Zera.
However, there has been growing concern over safety and environmental risks posed by some new fuel stations, which are located close to residential areas.
But Mr Mazambani said the regulator only issues licences to operators that meet all safety standards for the petroleum industry.
“The location and siting of fuel stations is a preserve of relevant local authorities, in line with their development plans and by-laws,” he added.
“The local authorities’ fire departments conduct risk assessments for any proposed petroleum retail facilities within the local authority and make the necessary recommendations.
“Zera, on its part, requires that wherever petroleum retail facilities have been approved to be located, they be constructed and operated in accordance with petroleum industry standards.”
Zera only requires a fuel retail site to comply with the local authority, Environmental Management Agency and fire department’s requirements before licensing.
Zera is charging US$10 580 to process a licence for fuel wholesalers, up from US$9 200 last year.
The fee for a fuel retail licence has also been pegged at US$575 (urban) and US$230 (rural), up from US$500 and US$200, respectively.
Close to 300 illegal fuel retailers were prosecuted last year for operating without licences.
“A total of 292 sites were prosecuted for operating without the requisite petroleum licences in 2023,” he said.
“In 2024, Zera will work with stakeholders to ensure that the penalties imposed on such operators are stiffer to ensure increased compliance.”
Last year, he added, 32 fuel retailers were prosecuted and convicted of selling fuel that did not meet quality specifications.
“The offences ranged from selling water-contaminated fuel to selling adulterated fuel. Three retailers had their licences suspended during the period.”