Zimbabwe gets Malawi fuel
by Nyasa Times
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A number of oil tankers destined for Malawi are being diverted to Zimbabwe in a top level deal between Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe.
Drivers working for local transport companies confided to Nyasa Times that they have been to Zimbabwe on several occasions to deliver fuel especially diesel to the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM).
A top Malawi government official, on condition of anonymity, has confirmed the matter.
"Officially I would say that it is not true – unofficially I can confirm, yes this is happening," he said.
'' It is not a deal as such but rather just a brotherly gesture between Presidents Mutharika and Mugabe -- as you know the two are good friends,'' said the source.
Zimbabwe, whose tyrannical 83-year-old leader enjoys good relations with Mutharika, is facing increasing international isolation for abuse of human rights and autocratic rule.
The deal is meant to cushion Zimbabwe's acute oil shortages, which for some years have been precipitated by economic turmoil and recent acute shortages of foreign currency.
However, Malawians have expressed fear that the development may cause fuel scarcity in Malawi.
Indeed, press reports last week indicated that the southern region of Malawi was facing diesel shortages.
The price of fuel in Malawi has recently risen by 20% with subsequent similar increases in minibus fares.
This is not the first time Malawi is helping Zimbabwe in a deal that raises suspicions. Mid this year, Malawi sent tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe but the payment for it has not yet been remitted to Malawi.
However, the list of debtors to the National Food Reserves Agency does not show any indebtedness by Zimbabwe. The impression given by this anomaly is that Zimbabwe got the maize for free following a hush-hush deal between Mugabe and Mutharika.
The maize-to-Zimbabwe issue sparked a lot of debate in the Malawi Parliament where members of the opposition accused the Mutharika administration of bartering maize with sugar.
Malawi Government officials were coy to comment on the matter describing it as "sensitive".
Foreign Affairs Minister, Joyce Banda, declined immediate comment.
The Zimbabwe High Commissioner to Malawi, Thandi Dumbutshena, could not immediately comment as well on the matter but she is on record as calling for positive reporting about the issues concerning Zimbabwe's current situation.
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