SA bans pumping petrol into portable containers in response to unrest and panic buying

Business Insider SA

South Africa looting petrol
(Getty Images)
  • Petrol stations in South Africa "may not retail and dispense petrol or diesel into a container."
  • This is according to the latest regulations issued in terms of the Petroleum Products Act by the mineral resources and energy minister on Thursday, which are yet to be officially gazetted.
  • This is "in the interests of public safety associated with the ongoing unrest" according to the minister.
  • The civil unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal has sparked fears of food and fuel shortages which has led to panic buying.
  • For more stories go to

Petrol stations in South Africa will be prohibited from pumping fuel into any portable containers, according to recent regulations published "in the interests of public safety associated with the ongoing unrest."

Following days of unrest and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, which has left at least 72 people dead, many more injured and thousands arrested, fears about the supply of fuel and food have gripped the provinces. As gutted shopping centres smoulder in the wake of the unrest, queues at petrol stations and surviving stores continue to grow.

While disruptions to bakeries, fresh produce markets and dairy farms threaten the supply of staple foods, the shutdown of petrol stations and South Africa's largest oil refinery has triggered a fuel scarcity scare.

Shell and BP South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref), which processes 24,000 tons of crude oil a day and accounts for 35% of the country's refining capacity, halted operations on Tuesday. Road closures and fears of further attacks on fuel-carrying trucks have also disrupted operations.

In response to the chaos, Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Minister Gwede Mantashe issued "Regulations Prohibiting The Sale And Dispensing Of Petrol And Diesel Into Containers" on Thursday morning. These regulations, which come into effect when officially gazetted, are issued in terms of the Petroleum Products Act of 1977 and apply to all licensed fuel retailers in South Africa.

"The DMRE assures the nation that while there are challenges with regards the movement of petroleum products to some parts of the country, there is sufficient product and government is working to secure the movement of all petroleum product," explained Mantashe.

"South Africans are discouraged from panic buying and hoarding, as this action will exacerbate the current challenges. In the interests of public safety associated with the ongoing unrest, today the department issued 'Regulations Prohibiting The Sale And Dispensing Of Petrol And Diesel Into Containers.'"

These regulations prohibit fuel retailers from dispensing petrol or diesel into portable containers.

"Operations at some facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga have been temporarily suspended until the situation improves. A number of retail service station sites have been reported to be damaged and set alight," the South African Petroleum Industry Association's (SAPIA) Executive Director Avhapfani Tshifularo told Business Insider South Africa on Wednesday evening.

"As safety is a priority, SAPIA is deeply concerned with the looting of fuel from retail service station sites and the filling of plastic containers with fuel on retail service station sites, both of which pose a serious safety risk."

While major petroleum suppliers – including Sasol and Engen – told Business Insider SA that they had experienced some disruptions in getting fuel to stations, they remain adamant that the country is not faced with a fuel shortage crisis and have urged motorists to avoid panic buying.

"Currently, our Secunda, Sasolburg, and Natref facilities are stable and running as normal. However, we are experiencing some disruption in some of our supply routes where the protest action is ongoing," Sasol told Business Insider SA.

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