A SHORTAGE of fuel has hit some parts of the Copperbelt and North-Western provinces following truck drivers’ strike in protest over poor conditions of service.

And the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) has revealed that the fuel shortage has been triggered by widespread industrial action by truck drivers, who downed tools in protest over poor conditions of service.

But Ministry of Energy Permanent Secretary Trevor Kaunda has denied any shortage of fuel in the country, saying that fuel tankers are transporting the commodity into the country on a daily basis, contrary to the statement issued by ERB.

A number of service stations in Kitwe yesterday were either closed or had motorists queuing for the commodity due to erratic supply.

According to eyewitness accounts, a number of filling stations had run out of fuel, but that the few that had the commodity were found overwhelmed with motorists.

Some residents in North-Western Province disclosed that Kabompo and Manyinga districts had no fuel for the past one week.

A Solwezi-based motorist, speaking anonymously, narrated that she drove from Kabombo enroute to Manyinga and found no fuel in both districts.

And ERB public relations manager Kwali Mfuni disclosed that the fuel shortage was caused by truck drivers, who had earlier downed tools over poor conditions of service.

“The ERB regrets the disruption in the supply of fuel that has been reported in some parts of the country. The disruption in the supply of fuel has been caused by industrial action taken by an organisation purportedly representing truck drivers,” Mfuni said in a statement, Tuesday.

“Further, from preliminary findings, the ERB has observed that some tankers carrying imported fuel were not able to cross the borders into Zambia, while other tankers were parked for safety reasons.”

She, however, stressed that Zambia had adequate fuel stocks amid the current market turbulence.

“The ERB would like to reassure the public that there are adequate stocks of petroleum products in the country. However, due to the strike action, which affected some tanker drivers, some parts of the country experienced disruption in fuel supply as some deliveries could not be made as scheduled,” stated Mfuni.

“In view of the challenges experienced, measures have since been put in place to provide security escorts for petroleum tankers to ensure the safe delivery of fuel to different parts of the country. The ERB is, therefore, appealing to all stakeholders to allow for the restoration of normal supply of fuel in the shortest possible time. Members of the public are also advised to buy fuel as they normally do to avoid further speculative stress on the petroleum supply chain.”

Separately, Kaunda dismissed any assertions of fuel shortages, as he said that tankers had continued to roll into the country carrying the commodity as normal.

“No, that is not the case, fuel is coming into the country. There is fuel in the country and there is more coming every day, there are trucks that are coming into the country. I have not heard of any shortage,” said Kaunda in a separate interview in Lusaka, Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Green Party president Peter Sinkamba demanded that government should update the nation on the fuel crisis prevailing on the Copperbelt.

“There has been a shortage of fuel for the last two weeks! Some filling stations have not been operating or they have been operating once in a while because of the fuel shortage. A number of filling stations have been on and off. Today (Tuesday), they have, the following day, the don’t have just like that. There is no certainty that they will be gas. You will need to make arrangements so that you can travel otherwise you will be stuck,” said Sinkamba.

“The trouble is that no one is giving a proper update and they can’t give an excuse of the truck drivers’ (strike) because the truck drivers it was only yesterday and the other day that is when they started docking, but for us, the fuel problem we have been experiencing for the last two weeks to three weeks now. The truth is that quite a number of filling stations don’t have fuel or they have it erratically! Today, they have, the following day, they don’t have. In Kitwe, there are various ques where there is fuel, which is not always the case when the supply is normal.”