By Johannes Chin’ombe
MASVINGO, November 24, 2015 – Masvingo City Council recently enforced regulatory measures to get rid of mushrooming Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) vendors who recently pitched up at undesignated business points in locations exposing a lot of residents to danger from the highly flammable source of energy which many have adopted to survive recurrent power cuts.
Residents however argued that besides drafting regulations, they will be satisfied if council effectively deals with the dangers they are facing from unregulated gas vendors operating in the city’s high density suburbs of Mucheke and Rujeko.
An official council document in possession of Radio VOP, notes that it has considered using guidelines from Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to regulate the gas vendors.
“Consideration was given to the report of the City Engineer on the guidelines and location of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) vending stations in the city. It was reported that after having seen several gas vendors starting to operate in the city, consultations with ZERA and EMA revealed that the guidelines they provided would be used,” the document read.
“It was reported that the guidelines should be used for sitting and licensing LPG stations in the city. The guidelines were adopted by the committee and the city engineer was instructed to enforce compliance in the city through the building inspectors and fire officers,” further read the document.
Residents who welcomed the anticipated development said they are living in fear since most gas vendors are just setting up shops without notable safety equipment.
“Gas operators who should be operating from the industrial areas have penetrated our homesteads. This has made us leave in fear since we all know that gas is highly flammable and will at anytime burn down all our homes if not carefully handled as was the case in many areas during the times of fuel shortages. Most residents still have scary scars from injuries they endured resulting in petrol fire outbreaks in homes. We do not want to face the same situation again,” said a Rujeko resident, Otiniel Madovi.
“Council and all relevant stakeholders should act fast because most of these gas vendors are not worried about safety, they are mainly worried of taking advantage of the power cuts to sell their products and make money. We need strict regulations in this community and they should be enforced in the most efficient manner. I am very concerned because my homestead is less than 50 meters away from light industrial sites that are selling gas and if any accident occurs, I will be the most affected,” said resident from Mucheke’s Aphiri suburb, Gamuchirai Mugandani.
“The risk is not with gas vendors only as council might see. The risk of being blown up by gas also comes from sausage and potato chips vendors who are using gas tanks to cook their fast foods in the open. They are using the highly flammable energy in open and if any unfortunate mistake happens, many will be injured. Council should swiftly act and get rid of such activities which have become rampant in every location and even council bars,” said another concerned resident, Edwiner Mzite.
LP Gas traders who declined to be named however said they are willing to follow regulations that are gazetted by ZERA and EMA but complained that the charges of meeting the regulations have remained high.
“No one ever wants to be in trouble with the law. Our major challenge is that the charges being put in place by authorities that regulate us have remained too high. If you are to follow them all you will go out of business since the profits would not match the money injected. This has led us to operate only with minimal requirements as a fire extinguisher,” said one vendor.
“We understand the requirements very well but what the relevant authorities especially council has failed to provide us facilities as land recommended to operate from. When we apply for industrial sites to operate from, they put us on the waiting list and in this economy; we can’t just sit and wait for the stands to be availed as they never come. This then forces us to find the best way possible as we await council to give us stands to operate from,” another vendor said.
“We earn a living from vending. When they threw us out of the streets we discovered that there are no major follow ups at night. That is when we resorted to night vending and our target customers are those who frequent the bars. We sell them chicken legs, potato chips and sausages we cook from mobile gas tanks. This has brought food to our tables and the only precautions we take include avoiding cigarette smokers near our tanks. That way, we have been safe since no accidents have been reported amongst our companions so far,” Sylvia Zinyenya, a fast food vendor said.
Meanwhile, ZERA recently reported that Zimbabwe is sitting on a fireball and thousands of households risk losing lives and property owing to the use of potentially explosive substandard liquefied (LP) gas storage cylinders that have flooded the domestic market.
ZERA whose mandate includes licensing and monitoring gas use, has also disclosed that electricity shortages have resulted in many households switching to LP gas for cooking, hence the proliferation of poor quality tanks which are prone to disastrous explosions.