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Botswana runs out of fuel

It was a week to forget for motorists this week as the country ran short of one of the precious commodities, fuel.

The problem escalated over the weekend which coincided with month end, and by Saturday, long queues had become a familiar sight at fuel service stations across the country. 

The shortage is said to be caused mostly by the delay at the border experienced by trucks delivering fuel into the country as drivers have to wait for their Covid-19 test results before they can be allowed into the country.

“Delays at the border have led to the current situation, as you are aware, truck drivers have to receive their Covid-19 results first before they can proceed into the country,” Bruce Buno, Chief Executive Officer of Astron Energy which operates Caltex Filling Stations said in an interview.

Buno said Caltex is also facing acute shortage of fuel, adding the company is already feeling the squeeze, more so that it is month-end and demand has gone up.

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The other factor which he said is contributing to the shortage of fuel in Botswana is the demand which has passed supply as a result of lockdown.

“Most refineries were operating on less capacity while others completely shut down during lockdowns,” said Buno, adding that this development has made the situation worse.

He said there has also been a problem with regards to the pipeline which feeds from the coast into the coastal cities like Durban.

“It is bad because Botswana Oil is also experiencing the same problem which means we cannot access the national strategic reserves as well,” Buno said.

Botswana Oil (BOL), which is a major importer of fuel into the country, has admitted shortage of fuel in the country.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Meshack Tshekedi, told the local media on Wednesday that Botswana relies heavily on South Africa for its fuel needs.

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Tshekedi explained that there are challenges of procuring fuel from South Africa as every time there are strikes in the transportation sector in South Africa; supply of fuel in Botswana is negatively impacted.

BOL’s Chief Operations Officer, Mosetlho Kenamile admitted the current fuel shortages in the country.

Mosetlho said after lockdown in South Africa, refineries started rationing fuel supply for Botswana due to short supply of fuel in South Africa.

However, Mosetlho revealed government has given BOL permission to look into other markets such as Namibia and Mozambique to augment supply from South Africa.

He said the country has already started receiving fuel from Mozambique.

Mosetlho said government has also authorized access to 8 million litres from national strategic reserves in order to boost local supply.

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In a bizarre turn of events, BOL, however, made a U-turn over the weekend saying it is untrue that there is shortage of fuel supply in the country, a statement which left many shocked. 

But when addressing the media on Saturday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Mmetla Masire admitted there is fuel supply challenge, saying the situation is expected to normalise in ‘two to three days’.  

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