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Great Lakes
Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Even Zimbabwe's dead need fuel
By Themba Nkosi
BBC, Bulawayo

The dead have become the latest victims of Zimbabwe's endless fuel shortages.

Petrol queue in Zimbabwe
Petrol queues have become part of everyday life
Some fuel attendants and garage owners have taken to demanding to see the corpses before they can sell fuel to hearse drivers enroute to cemeteries.

When the fuel shortages became serious, undertakers were given priority at petrol stations.

But then conmen started masquerading as undertakers and hearse drivers and bought large quantities of fuel from garages and sold it at exorbitant prices on the black market.

In some cases, the conmen managed to produce what looked like genuine burial certificates at petrol stations and were given fuel by unsuspecting attendants.


The government and civic groups have condemned the practice with church leaders describing it as "satanic".

But garage owners have defended the practice saying it is the only way to avoid selling the scarce liquid to conmen masquerading as undertakers.

Coffins on display
The final trip can be a hard one

"We have been getting a lot of people claiming to be from funeral parlours, some of them carrying fake burial certificates," said one garage owner.

"In the end we discovered that conmen had exploited the privileges given to undertakers from genuine funeral parlours."

Funeral parlours fall under the Essential Services Act.

In Harare, undertakers were forced to take four bodies to a service station after the garage owners demanded proof that the driver of the hearse was genuine.

In some cases, the funeral parlours tell bereaved families to source their own fuel before bodies can be transported to cemeteries for burial.

The undertakers have lodged their complaints with the Minister of Energy and Power Development, Amos Midzi.


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