Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Harare — Zimbabwe’s energy regulator has raised petrol and diesel prices by up to 16%, the fourth increase in 2019, after the finance minister said fuel was considerably cheaper than in neighbouring countries.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the biggest fuel price hike in January, a 150% increase, which sparked deadly protests by financially struggling Zimbaweans that left more than a dozen people dead after an army clampdown.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said late on Friday that from Saturday, petrol would cost Z$6.10 ($0.70) a litre, up from Z$5.26, while the price of diesel has been increased 13% to Z$5.84.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was quoted in a daily newspaper on Thursday as saying he would be happy if the price of fuel was equivalent to $1 per litre.

While Ncube wants fuel prices to reflect import costs, many Zimbabweans can barely afford to pay them when the unemployment exceeds 80% and the entry-level wage for a government employee is about $49 a month — enough to buy a car tyre.

But with no sign of an end to rolling power cuts in the country, demand for fuel has risen as businesses resort to more expensive diesel-powered generators. Analysts say this is increasing the price of doing business, with companies likely to pass the cost to consumers, who are already grappling with inflation of nearly 100%.

There were long queues at service stations selling fuel on Saturday.

Hopes that living standards would soon improve under Mnangagwa, who came to power after Robert Mugabe was removed in a coup in 2017, have not been realised. Instead, Zimbabweans are frustrated by daily power outages lasting up to 17 hours and severe shortages of US dollars, fuel, bread and medicines.