Looking after lifeblood of economy

Thursday, May 28, 2015

By Deputy Minister of Energy Thembisile Majola

It is a daily routine for millions of motorists. You pull in to your local fuel station, top up your tank and get back onto the road within a blink of an eye. It happens so effortlessly that motorists seldom give thought to the sophisticated chain that ensures a consistent supply of high quality and reliable petroleum products as overseen by the Department of Energy.

Through the implementation of legislation and policy, we ensure that liquid fuels which are the lifeblood of our modern economy are available to motorists in every part of our country. This is a key responsibility in the petroleum sector and vital to our economic success.

This was among some of the key issues discussed during the first national Fuel Retailers Association Conference held earlier this month in Joburg.

The Department takes non-deliveries or late deliveries of petroleum products seriously especially during peak seasons. In these instances, the matter receives our highest priority and we are working towards a lasting solution in this area.

Through our new programme of fuel sampling and testing at forecourts, the Department of Energy is are able to verify that fuel sold to consumers is of a set standard. This is critical to ensure the safety of South Africans and their vehicles.

All the tests we conduct are in line with the Regulations for Petroleum Products Specifications and Standards. These are done in the downstream petroleum value chain and at our various border posts.

In assisting fuel retailers, the Department of Energy works with them to overcome challenges they may face in conducting business. We are addressing the challenges with the implementation of regulatory practices such as Regulatory Accounting System and the use of credit cards at forecourts.

The Department of Energy works with the national Fuel Retailers Association which has over the last 20 years managed the fuel retail sector. During this time, the association has been instrumental in promoting profitable and sustainable fuel retailing business in the country.

Moreover, the Association has provided a platform that supports and advances fuel retailers in the country.  During the recent Fuel Retailers Association Conference, the sector focused on embracing change.

It is important for South Africa’s fuel retail sector to respond to the growing needs of our nation. For government, the industry’s ability to adapt to change and growth helps ensure the country flourishes.

The partnership between the Department and fuel retailers is crucial to the implementation of legislation and policy. Our responsibility as a regulator goes beyond just enforcing policy; we also work towards the promotion of competition within the industry.

Since 1994, there has been great strides in the advancement of the fuel retailers industry. However, more needs to be done on transformation so that it can have a greater impact on the economic and social transformation of our nation.

The Department of Energy considers the transformation of the fuel retail sector an imperative, especially to create an enabling environment and conditions for broader participation. We must work together to find new ways to make this possible and ensure ownership by women and historically disadvantaged South Africans in the sector.

We are, however, concerned over the growing trend of a rapid change of ownership within retail sites and that most of these transactions do not include historically disadvantaged South Africans.

This reverses our successes and stifles transformation. The captains of this industry must be conscious of these developments which in the long term could make the sector unsustainable. 

Ultimately, we must ensure that more fuel retail stations are owned and operated by women and black retailers.

The petroleum industry has contributed greatly towards the implementation of our national vision of job creation and has been instrumental in creating employment. It accounts for 70 000 jobs at fuel retail stations.

It has also played a key role in the development of small businesses and promoting entrepreneurship.

The Fuel Retailers Association deals with labour-related issues such as wages, skills and training in the Motor Industry Bargaining Chamber Organisation and has a responsibility to both employers and workers. While the industry operates under fixed margins, we must ensure that both employers and employees benefit.

An important area for the fuel retail sector is addressing safety of employees and the general public. It is particularly important that safety issues such as petroleum vapour management systems be managed.

Equally important is an education drive that continue to educate the public on their safety at fuel stations. This includes not lighting up when filling your tank and being careful when using cellphones because when they may ignite petrol vapours.

We are confident that this sector will continue to play a positive role in our development. Working with the industry, we can move our economy forward.

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