South African diesel scandal

A large percentage of South African filling stations are diluting diesel with paraffin, influencing the performance of vehicles and causing long-term damage to engines.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) recently revealed that an investigation showed 70 service stations out of a sample of 1000 diluted diesel with paraffin.

Service stations dilute diesel with paraffin because it reduces the cost of the diesel and, therefore, increases profits.

Another benefit to filling stations is that the fuel levy does not apply to illuminating paraffin (IP), which means filling stations can defraud the taxman by mixing it with diesel.

It is unlawful to mix diesel with paraffin. However, the practice has gained momentum because of a lack of effective law enforcement.

It is not new. In 2022, Mineral Resource and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told parliament that dodgy diesel was rising at petrol stations nationwide.

The Automobile Association (AA) also warned motorists two years ago of the increased occurrence of fuel stations selling diesel mixed with paraffin.

In September 2023, WearCheck’s transformer laboratories manager Pierre le Roux told News24 there was a dramatic increase in test requests about diesel quality.

At the time, FPS Bulk Diesel co-owner Marius Brelage told City Press the market is full of diesel mixed with paraffin.

The rapid rise in filling stations unlawfully mixing diesel with illuminating paraffin is, therefore, common knowledge.

However, many stakeholders were still shocked by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s revelation of just how widespread it has become.

Kevin Mileham, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy

Kevin Mileham, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, wants the department to institute a nationwide review of petroleum products.

He said the research showed that, based on the department’s investigation, around 322 filling stations may be guilty of selling dodgy diesel.

“According to the South African Petroleum Industry Association, there are about 4,600 service stations in the country,” he said.

“Using the findings of the current sampling survey as a baseline, it’s not a stretch to make the assumption that there are as many as 322 service stations that could also be implicated.”

The DA has also called for the release of the names of the 70 service stations implicated in the diesel dilution scandal.

“Only a nationwide review of all service stations will rebuild trust and assure the motoring public of the quality of petroleum products,” Mileham said.

Mineral Resource and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe

He added that the DMRE’s argument that it can’t release the names of the implicated service stations is administratively weak.

“These businesses lost their right to privacy when they deliberately tainted their diesel products, creating a public hazard that potentially placed the lives of motorists at severe risk,” he said.

“The public needs to be made aware of these bad apples so that they can protect themselves and their vehicles.”

One effect of releasing the names of the filling stations implicated in the diesel scandal is that they will be exposed to legal action.

Rapport revealed that the legal action has already started. A Cape motorist is taking on a Helderberg filling station, accusing them of mixing diesel with paraffin.

The motorist, Loren Baker, alleged that she filled up at a station known for offering the region’s cheapest diesel.

However, it was not long before the performance of her car deteriorated, and she witnessed a lot of smoke. She took the car to a mechanic for testing.

She was alerted that the fuel in her car was not pure diesel. An independent test confirmed that the diesel was mixed with paraffin.

The filling station denied the allegations, saying they have many happy clients who have no problems with their fuel.


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