Zimbabwe president doubles gas price as fuel crisis …

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe & # 39; s president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to severe shortages that feed public anger, even if he leaves on a foreign trip to Russia and other countries looking for investment.

In a press conference on Saturday night, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that the increase in the state-controlled price of fuel should alleviate the shortages that the country has hijacked in recent weeks. The president left Zimbabwe on Sunday during a trip that would end with his presence at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and critics who say he should stay home to deal with the crisis.

The gas shortage shows that this South African country is experiencing the worst economic crisis in a decade due to a severe shortage of foreign currency.

The lack of fuel means that the police are walking kilometers (kilometers) with accused suspects because their vehicles are on the ground. Ambulances, school buses, public transport vehicles and garbage trucks spend days waiting for diesel and petrol.

Some motorists camp at petrol stations where the pumps are dry for days. Others simply park their vehicles at the nearest petrol station, hoping to be in a prime location when fuel is eventually available.

In a stark contrast that also provokes public anger, a video on social media shows a long line of cars waiting on petrol for a while, as the presidential convoy of Mnangagwa, escorted by motorcyclists, drives past the desperate motorists.

Motorists wait in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists wait in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

The fuel crisis is only part of Zimbabwe's overarching economic downturn under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who briefly inspired hope after the takeover of his mentor, the old ruler Robert Mugabe with the help of the military in November 2017.

The economy of Zimbabwe, which was already struggling when Mnangagwa took power, has been dramatically tapped since he won controversial elections on a limited scale in July last year. Inflation rose to 31 percent in November last year, the highest since 2009, while a shortage of foreign currencies left some of the few factories that still operate "in a month or so," said Sifelani Jabangwe, the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, the representative body for private industry.

"The country creaks to a standstill," he said Thursday at a meeting on the economy.

The drastic fuel shortage lists the pressing economic situation in Zimbabwe.

"It is now a week and still nothing," said Alyvene Moyo, on a fuel hose that wound several miles in the capital, Harare. A pillow and some blankets lay on his passenger seat, and relatives slept in turn in the car, he said.

"This vehicle is our life, we are already starving and I can not pay school fees because of these shortages," he said about his sedan, which he lost last year as an illegal public means of transport since he lost his job at a hardware store.

Nobody seems to have been spared. At another petrol station, an army truck drove straight to the front of a long queue and shouted mutterings of disgruntled drivers.

At petrol stations where petrol and diesel are available, the riot police keep the order, but they get extras: police trucks have to refuel for other drivers. In normal times, safety agencies refuel based on their own pumps.

The fuel shortage comes from a debilitating currency crisis, analysts say.

Before the price increase of Mnangagwa, $ 10 in cash could be collected by cash transfer of $ 35 cash in cash, thanks to a government subsidy aimed at maintaining artificial parity between dollars in cash and funds available through electronic transfer.

Zimbabwe left its own currency in 2009 after hyperinflation reached 500 billion per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The US dollar dominates the daily transactions since then.

But because of a large shortage of dollars, most people now have to use a surrogate currency issued by the government, called bond loans, which is supposed to be the same as a US dollar, as well as electronic money. Both devalue quickly against the dollar on the black market.

Some companies, such as pharmacies, now only accept US dollars in cash. In the fuel sector where the government manages prices, fuel companies are obliged to accept bond notes and electronic money for petrol and diesel at the official exchange rate. The government then gives the companies dollars to import the products, but the government has not allocated sufficient funds to companies to import sufficient fuel for the country, leading to shortages.

Analysts said the price hike was expected over the weekend and warned that this could lead to a new round of price increases for food and other services.

"If you look at the black market rates, Zimbabwe had the cheapest fuel in Africa, a liter costing between 40 and 45 cents," said Takunda Mugaga, an economist and chief executive of the National Chamber of Commerce of Zimbabwe.

"Such price distortions, inspired by an overvalued exchange rate, are very untenable, especially when the government is bankrupt," Mugaga said, adding that many employees were waiting most of their productive time for fuel.

Mnangagwa, who announced the increase, said the government "will not allow companies to cause a new round of price increases." He attributed the deficits to "the growing economy and the unbridled trade in illegal fuel." Mnangagwa claimed that "certain elements" wanted to use the fuel scarcity to cause unrest. Mnangagwa's attempts to control the economy, instead of allowing market forces to determine prices, is one of the causes of Zimbabwe's economic misery, economists say.

Enterprising Zimbabweans have used the long lines. Sellers make good business by selling food and other goods to motorists and others have opened mini car washes in the queues.

Sometimes the frustration turns to violent flares between motorists. At a gas station in Harare, the police fired tear gas to disperse fighting motorists, while fuel owners are often the target of motorist attacks that accuse them of taking bribes to give some people the chance to cross the line.

Public anger has been swelling and fuel lines have become public spaces where an open anti-government sentiment is expressed despite the fact that people are often arrested because they criticize the president.

Munting the campaign slogan of Mnangagwa: "Zimbabwe is open to business," cried a motorist who ran aground in laughter: "Zimbabwe is closed for business!"

A motorist takes a nap on a bench near his car in a fuel row in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping the increase will end will make severe deficits that feed the public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A motorist takes a nap on a bench near his car in a fuel row in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping the increase will end will make severe deficits that feed the public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A motorist takes a nap on a bench near his car in a fuel row in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping the increase will end will make severe deficits that feed the public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A cyclist plows his way through a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that public anger to feed. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A cyclist plows his way through a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that public anger to feed. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A cyclist plows his way through a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that public anger to feed. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A motorist waits in the fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A motorist waits in the fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A motorist waits in the fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists are waiting in a fuel row in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists are waiting in a fuel row in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists are waiting in a fuel row in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A truck driver waits in a fuel queue controlled by the police and the military in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A truck driver waits in a fuel queue controlled by the police and the military in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A truck driver waits in a fuel queue controlled by the police and the military in the capital city of Harare, Saturday, January 12, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists wait for their turn to be served in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to severe shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists wait for their turn to be served in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to severe shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists wait for their turn to be served in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to severe shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists gather to express their anger after the fuel runs out at a gas station in the capital Harare on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping the increase will end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists gather to express their anger after the fuel runs out at a gas station in the capital Harare on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping the increase will end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Motorists gather to express their anger after the fuel runs out at a gas station in the capital Harare on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping the increase will end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A policeman checks motorists in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A policeman checks motorists in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A policeman checks motorists in a fuel row in the capital Harare, Friday, January 11, 2019. Zimbabwe's president has more than doubled the price of petrol, hoping that the increase will put an end to serious shortages that feed public anger. (AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

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