/ 15 July 2021

Government bans mass petrol and diesel purchases

Safrica Politics Unrest Economy
Hundreds of cars queue to fill petrol at a local feul station in central Durban stoking a fear of fuel shortages in Durban on July 14, 2021 as several shops, businesses and infrastructure are damaged in the city, following five nights of continued violence and looting sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma. - So far, 72 people have died and more than 1,200 people arrested, since former president Jacob Zuma began a 15-month jail term for contempt, sparking protests that swiftly turned violent. The violence, targeting malls and other economic hotspots has seen shops and infrastructure destroyed. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP)

From Thursday, 15 July, the sale of petrol and diesel to consumers in portable containers is now  prohibited, the department of mineral resources and energy announced, partly citing a need to avert manufactured shortages.

The ban is one of the severe aftermaths of the past week’s wave of looting and vandalism that hit shopping malls and other key infrastructure in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. The violence started off as protests against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court last week.

“In the interests of public safety associated with the ongoing unrest, the department issued regulations prohibiting the sale and dispensing of petrol and diesel into containers,” the energy department said in a statement.

“South Africans are discouraged from panic-buying and hoarding, as this action will exacerbate the current challenges.”

Disruptions in KwaZulu-Natal resulted in Shell Refining SA and BP Southern Africa’s joint venture, the South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref), in Durban temporarily closing its gates on Tuesday. Sapref is responsible for 35% of the country’s refinery capacity. 

The energy department said the closure of Sapref would have a ripple effect across the national supply chain for petroleum products.

Layton Beard of the Automobile Association (AA) said the restrictions on the sale of fuel were likely to affect consumers buying it for non-vehicle use, such as running medical equipment off generators.

The department said despite the challenges on the transportation of petroleum products across the country, “there are sufficient products and the government is working to secure the movement of all petroleum products.

On Wednesday, acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni hinted at possible “economic sabotage” in response to media questions about the likely driving force behind the rampant looting and destruction in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.