Left to make do with disposable income that is shrinking faster than a melting ice cube on a hot summer day, South Africans are feeling the pinch as their living costs skyrocket like a rocket blasting off into space. The government has announced fuel prices that are as massive as a towering mountain, putting many households in a vulnerable position like fragile glass, as they face additional financial strain amidst numerous hardships like a stormy sea. This fuel hike arrives like a bolt of lightning, striking just hours after Eskom unleashed stage 6 load shedding that is as disruptive as a tornado and economically devastating as a hurricane.

By Sivuyile Majikijela

Public transport commuters, especially those who depend on minibus taxis, and motorists, find themselves in a tight spot with the recent fuel price hike that kicked in on Wednesday. They will have to dig deeper into their pockets to cover their travel expenses.

The Department of Mineral Resources (DMRE) raised fuel prices by R 1.71 per litre for both 93 and 95-octane petrol. Diesel prices have also risen by R2.76 per litre, to R2.84. In addition, the price of illuminating paraffin has risen by R 3.70 per litre.

This has resulted in a price of R23.80 per litre for 95 unleaded petrol at the coast and R24.54 per litre in the inland region, where the price of 93 unleaded petrol has increased to R24.14 per litre.

The price of a litre of diesel with 0.05% sulphur has increased to R24.84, while diesel with 0.005% sulphur now costs R25.76. The price of a litre of illuminating paraffin has increased to R22.88.

Fuel prices have risen considerably since the beginning of the year. The price of petrol has increased by 14.6%. Diesel, on the other hand, has increased by 8.7% despite experiencing a series of price drops in the first half of 2023.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) said the average cost of Brent crude oil has increased from $79.75 to $84.78 per barrel over the last month. This increase is attributed to production cuts implemented by Saudi Arabia.

It said fuel price adjustments in South Africa were mainly driven by changes in international oil prices, fluctuations and the rand exchange rate, as oil is priced in dollars.

“High prices of petrol are a result of low inventories and refinery outages, which affected the production of blending components used in summer grade petrol making it more expensive to produce.

“Diesel and paraffin prices increased because of lower shipments of Russia’s Urals crude oil which is rich in middle distillates, as well as rising demand of middle distillates ahead of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere,” the department said.

For the period under review, November 2020 to 2023, South Africa has seen an increase in inland prices of Petrol 95 yearly.

According to rates released by the South African Petroleum Industry Association (SAPIA),  it cost inland motorists R14.59 for a litre of Petrol95 in November 2020. In the same month in 2021, it had increased by R4.95 to R19.54. South Africans then saw an increase to R22.87 in 2022.

Meanwhile, the wholesale price of diesel inland will now be R23.05 a litre, a new high for 2023. In July last year, diesel reached a record high of R25.40.

In a press release, earlier this week, the Automobile Association (AA) cautioned that fuel price increases will not only impact motorists but consumers will also suffer because the greater transportation costs will surely lead to general inflation.

“Motorists will certainly feel the pinch in terms of higher prices at the pumps but consumers across the board can expect higher prices to all goods and services because of these hikes,” the association said.

Siyanda Mbembe, a motorist, told The Telegram that he was already experiencing significant financial strain due to the high cost of living in the country. He added that the constant increases in petrol prices were only adding to his burden.

“I can barely survive through the month. It is like I am only working to be able to afford food and petrol. A full tank in my car can’t even make it through 3 weeks and I only use my car for travel to and from work. These rising costs make me wonder if it is worth owning a car,” said  Mbembe. 

The biggest elements in South Africa’s fuel price structure are the basic fuel price (BFP), general fuel levy (GFL), and road accident fund (RAF) levy which altogether account for over 90% of the cost.

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