ERB must act on minister’s directive

 GOVERNMENT must empower Zambian transporters by giving them contracts to import fuel from oil marketing companies into the country rather than empowering foreign companies, the Zambia Union of Tanker Driver an Allied Workers (ZUTDA) has advised.

And the Petroleum Transporters Association of Zambia (PTAZ) has demanded that the Energy Regulations Board (ERB) must immediately issue licences to Zambian-owned oil transporting companies now that Government has directed them to do so.

Speaking on behalf of the other drivers during a meeting with ministers last Friday, ZUTDA Lusaka branch chairperson Humphrey Kapesha charged that local transporters were exploited in Zambia as preference for fuel imports had become a privilege for foreigners.

Mr. Kapesha said there was no way government expected local oil transporting companies to be paying drivers decently when all contracts on oil imports into the country were given to foreign companies.

“We want this issue to be reversed immediately. There is no way we can be suffering in our own country because when our employers are not given good contracts, there is no way they can give us descent salaries.

“How do you explain a situation where foreign companies are given contracts to import fuel in the country yet we have the capacity to do so? What justification can anyone give for this? Minister, this is one of our demands and we want this to be addressed before Friday (this week). Our employers need proper contracts not what government is giving them,” Mr. Kapesha said.

He noted that the local distribution contracts given to locals did not spur growth of the transport sector in Zambia adding that there was need for government to consider awarding contracts for importing fuel in the country to local companies.

And PTAZ had demanded for any immediate reinstatement of licences for local transporters which were suspended by the ERB.

Last week, acting Energy Minister Stephen Kampyongo directed the ERB to liaise with all transporters whose licences were suspended so that they could resume operations immediately.

PTAZ secretary general Benson Tembo told the Daily Nation yesterday that the ERB needed to act on the directive given to them by the minister before Friday when the ministers and the drivers’ union will have a follow-up meeting on resolutions that were passed during last Fridays’ meeting.

Mr. Tembo accused ERB of deliberately crippling the operations of local transporters who were critical of their operations in order to silence them for pointing out the board’s inefficiencies.

“We demand for an immediate action by ERB to issue out licences to transporters whose permits were suspended in unclear circumstances because the minister made that directive last week.

“ERB should realise that whatever action they take on transporters does not just affect the owners of the companies but the entire subsector as well. We warned about these problems a long time ago but our colleagues had to wait until drivers protested,” he said.

According to sources in the oil industry, operating licences for Omar Transport has been suspended for over a year now while some of the tankers for Lavasha were suspended six months ago.

Pegasus is the latest victim to have the licences suspended for over a month now by ERB.