/ 13 July 2011

‘Noooo petrol’ as strike begins to bite

South African motorists are starting to struggle to find fuel as effects of the national chemical workers’ strike takes hold.

Fuel Retailers’ Association CEO Reggie Sibiya told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday that petrol stations were now beginning to feel the effects of the strike.

“We are starting to experience severe shortages countrywide, particularly in Gauteng. The major effects of the strike are certainly being felt and it will only get worse,” Sibiya said.

Engen stations in Gauteng were running out of petrol because oil tankers are unable to leave some depots, the Engen Refinery said on Wednesday.

“Gauteng is the hotspot. Three of the depots can’t release oil tankers because truck drivers are on strike, and there has been a bit of intimidation,” said spokesperson Tania Landsberg.

“There are people picketing outside the gates of the depots and the most important aspect for us is ensuring the safety of our workers.”

The depots affected were Langlaagte, Alrode, and Waltloo.

Landsberg said although contingency plans were in place, there would be challenges.

“We are planning around that to keep our sites wet, but some are already going dry.”

Landsberg said she had received updates about fuel shortages in the coastal areas.

Sasol spokesperson Nothemba Noruwana said contingency plans were in place, and that major complexes in Secunda and Sasolburg were operating with minimal disruptions.

“Operations at Sasol service stations have not been affected by the strike,” she said.

BP spokesperson Glenda Zeenyika said fuel deliveries were increased before the strike to ensure all its petrol stations were topped up.

About 70 000 fuel workers from the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers’ Union and the General Industries’ Workers Union of South Africa downed tools on Monday, demanding a minimum salary of R6 000 a month and a 40-hour work week.

“Negotiators must come to the table already, our businesses are bleeding,” Sibiya said.

‘Where can I go?’
South African motorists have begun venting their frustrations on Twitter.

The social network was abuzz with comments from frustrated motorists who were visiting service stations without fuel.

“Where can I go — There is noooo petrol!,” wrote Nyasha Chigwadere in Johannesburg, while Wayne Renkim in Nelspruit questioned the perils of getting fuel.

“Hoe moelik is dit om petrol te vind? [How difficult is it to find petrol?],” Renkin asked.

Vernon Harvey in Cape Town was seemingly prevented from going to work as a result of the shortage.

“No petrol anywhere — is it a good enough excuse not to go to work,” Harvey asked.

The Fuel Retailers’ Association Sibiya called on motorists to remain calm.

“It’s unavoidable but the public can help by not panic buying — if they do, stocks will be depleted sooner and lead to further problems,” Sibiya said.