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Fuel crisis - make 'em pay!

2005-12-14 13:15

John Oxley

No, it's not the government which is to blame (and I tend to agree, for once).

Nor is it petrol companies which admitted to miscalculating on how long it would take to upgrade their refineries to cater for new fuel standards (though they've known about it for more than four years).

No, it's the media which reported on shortages across the country and "caused panic buying among motorists".


It's holiday time in South Africa, and of course motorists are going to get upset when they go to their local filling station to refuel ready for their annual break, and discover there's no fuel.

And yes, the media has a right - in fact a RESPONSIBILITY - to report on this.

What do the fuel companies want - a return to apartheid era censorship? It certainly appears that way!

Fact is, there have been lots of excuses bandied about on why and how it all happened, but here's my take on the matter.

The petrol companies started planning the changeover a year or more ago.

Wrong basis

They based all calculations on fuel usage figures at the time of their planning.

They promised the government they would have 30 days' supply in hand as a buffer during the changeover.

However, what these geniuses didn't take into account, I believe, is that in the past year car sales have increased by 26%.

This, of course, equates to a lot more vehicles on our roads, so that "30 days' supply" has eroded to around 20 days.

Do the math, and you'll see it coincides with the time we started to run out of petrol and diesel.

The person I feel sorry for is Minister of Minerals and Energy Lindiwe Hendricks, who went into a press conference this week armed with assurances from the SA Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) that there were no problems with the supply of fuel inland.

Her famous" What crisis?" quote made headlines, but my take is that she was conned by Sapia.

Afterwards, much embarrassed, she made a veiled threat to give them hell, and I hope she does!

Talking of giving them hell, there have been reports that airlines are going to sue the petrol companies, this time about a lack of jet fuel at Cape Town airport which left plane loads of passengers stranded.

I hear the problem was caused because someone put the wrong ingredients into a batch of aviation fuel, so it couldn't be safely used by the airlines.

If it's true, that translates to sheer bad management.

One would expect that the fuel companies are contracted to supply the right fuel for the job, so on the face of it the airlines have a case.

The only problem is that all those passengers who were inconvenienced, who lost time and money because of delays or inability to fly, will never get THEIR money back.

There's only one way to make sure this sort of ineptitude doesn't happen again.

Make 'em pay!


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