Conrad Dube/Godfrey Marawanyika
SOUTH Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is demanding that Zimbabwe’s export receipts to that country be tied up as security for a long-term fuel deal whose negotiations are at
an advanced stage, it was established this week.
The RBZ confirmed that “negotiations with South Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank have progressed satisfactorily”.
Officials in the fuel industry yesterday revealed that the parties were yet to agree on two major sticking points relating to security of the loan.
They said RMB has said that the facility must include the settling of previous debts to South African fuel suppliers. The bank is understood to have demanded that all exports to South Africa be used to settle the debts including the loan under negotiation.
The officials said if all these conditions are met, the fuel situation should improve in 30 days. The central bank, without revealing much, said talks were in progress.
“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is in the process of negotiating a facility with Rand Merchant Bank,” the central bank said in response to written questions from the Zimbabwe Independent.
“The facility will be activated as soon as the negotiations have been concluded. Negotiations so far have progressed satisfactorily,” the RBZ said.
RMB spokesperson Peter Gent also confirmed the negotiations with the RBZ. He would not divulge details regarding the facility, citing client confidentiality.
“For reasons of client confidentiality, RMB cannot comment on specific transactions. Where transactions are of a politically sensitive nature, RMB will only act as a facilitator on request from our government which deems such a transaction to be in the national interest,” Gent said in his response to questions.
In pursuit of the facility, RMB officials held talks with RBZ officials in Harare at the beginning of the month while RBZ governor Gideon Gono and his delegation went to South Africa for further discussions.
“We confirm that we were approached to look into the possibility of helping the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to finance the importation of fuel for that country. No further details are available at this stage,” Gent said.
“Zimbabwe is a major trading partner of South Africa, and cross-border financing of this kind takes place on a regular basis in a wide variety of product areas, from maize to railway equipment,” Gent added.
It has since emerged that the facility is not confined to petroleum products but that the RMB is also acting as a facilitator on behalf of the South African government on a loan Zimbabwe has requested from South Africa.
The negotiations have been going on for almost a month but the critical aspects of the facility have not been made public. The value of the facility has also not been disclosed but it is believed to be worth half-a-billion United States dollars.
Meanwhile, the fuel crisis reached unprecedented levels as the country virtually ran dry after foreign currency shortages worsened this week.
Service stations selling fuel in foreign currency were swamped by motorists who have access to the scarce resource.
At Wedzera Service Station along Samora Machel Avenue, motorists jostled to get petrol or diesel. A long queue formed towards Enterprise road as motorists with free funds bought fuel coupons.
Meanwhile, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai will today walk from his Strathaven home to the party’s headquarters in the city centre after failing to access fuel.
Tsvangirai said he has tried without success to get fuel from service stations including those selling in foreign currency.