THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has issued a final warning to two fuel firms who risk losing their licences without a hearing if they wantonly increase fuel prices in future based on fake news from social media.
Zera acting chief executive officer, Mr Eddington Mazambani, said this in an interview here on the sidelines of the ongoing annual general and annual conference of the Regional Energy Regulatory Association of Southern Africa (RERA).
Our Harare Bureau understands that the companies concerned, which Mr Mazambani declined to name, immediately increased the fuel price to $23 for diesel on Sunday following the generation and circulation of the fake news report on social media.
"Without giving names, yes, there was one or two outlets which had increased prices of fuel based on social media fake news, which was circulating," he said.
"But they managed to correct the prices in a short period of time after we engaged them. This is the second time that it is happening and we have spoken with the outlets concerned that any future indiscretions of that nature, will result in us revoking the license without us entering into any negotiations.
"Normally, what we do when someone has broken the regulations, we give them what we call a compliance order, which gives them time to correct whatever wrong they would have done. But we have said to these guys that this is the final time they have done this. Any indiscretions in future we just cancel the license without affording them any opportunity to comply."
On Sunday, many service stations stopped selling fuel when doctored messages, allegedly from Zera, started circulating warning of a massive price increase of $23 from $19,55 per litre for diesel.
Many motorists rushed to service stations supposedly to buy the product before prices were adjusted, resulting in unusually long queues in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the RERA conference went into full swing yesterday with side events, which are specific topics of interest to the energy sector that are discussed by the membership. Two key topics on gender mainstreaming and the creation of a regional energy regulatory authority were discussed.
Presently, RERA is an association, made of regional energy regulators but they now want to set up an authority.
In terms of gender mainstreaming, a presentation was done on the impact of energy to women since they are the ones who do most of the social work at home, such as looking for energy sources and food preparation.
Discussions also centred on electricity tariffs, especially in so far as they affect low income earners, since the rich will migrate to alternatives such as solar and gas.
Today, Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi is expected to officially open the conference, a development described by Mr Mazambani as indicative of Government's commitment to energy issues.
Energy Deputy Minister Magna Mudyiwa arrived yesterday while Permanent Secretary Dr Gloria Magombo sat through most of the discussions yesterday. The conference started on Sunday and ends of Friday with an AGM.