By: Hertha Ekandjo
The mines and energy ministry says the issue of fuel smuggled from neighbouring Angola has now become a big issue.
The ministry’s deputy director of petroleum affairs Carlo Mcleod said the government needs to budget funds for infrastructure, equipment, and recruitment of young police border guards.
McLeod said this during Thursday’s mines and energy stakeholder’s engagement meeting. Earlier this year, after an unrelenting increase in fuel prices, smuggled ‘Ngungula’ fuel from Angola flooded the northern towns due to its affordability.
According to him, the immigration ministry should consider deploying police officers from different regions to supplement the existing workforce capacity along the borderline in the affected areas.
“Fines and sentences need to be more deterrent,” said McLeod.
He further noted that a mission undertaken from 10 to 16 July to investigate the problem in the affected regions revealed no delineated border fences, which had become a hurdle for law enforcement to maintain and control the situation.
Moreover, he expressed that Namibia’s northern borders in the Ohangwena and Omusati regions facilitated entry points for smuggled fuel.
He added that traditional homesteads near the border in both countries are used to store smuggled fuel.
“These activities have now become a life-threatening concern and not only as an economic issue, as police officers are attacked by fuel smugglers, resulting in injuries and property damage,” emphasised McLeod.
McLeod highlighted that in some instances, Angolan officers stand at points where smuggling is happening without doing anything.
He accused law enforcers from both countries of being involved in fuel smuggling, “thus it becomes extremely difficult to contain,” he said.
Moreover, he noted another concern: fines and sentences imposed upon the offenders were not stringent to deter them.
“The fines are little, so are the sentences. Hence, such need to be upped to send a strong deterrent message to both the convicted and would-be offenders.”
The Ohangwena region is more critical due to the proximity of service stations in Santa Clara, Angola, where the smuggled fuel is sourced. At the same time, Onamhinda in Oshikango, which is partially fenced, is ineffective as criminals continue to cut the fence.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s minister Tom Alweendo said the government was not opposing the sale of Angolan fuel in the country but needed the trade to be regularised.
Alweendo clarified that government was not approached by anyone applying for a wholesale licence to supply fuel, nor had it declined such an offer.
“Once someone applies for a wholesale licence, we do not care where they buy it, whether it’s Angola or elsewhere. So, in this case, we are against those trading without authorisation as it is against the law,” he said.
According to the minister, Angolan fuel was cheaper because their government heavily subsidises petroleum, making it more affordable.
“But this over-reliance on subsidy comes with a level of civil unrest when you want to reduce or abolish it,” he expressed.
“Only about 15 per cent of fuel is refined in Angola, while the remaining 85 per cent is imported from the same international market we procure ours. So, it does not make sense, and formally it is impossible for us to import any fuel from them. There is only one international market price, which applies to everyone,”
Alweendo said the government would consider establishing or having a refinery plant locally to offset costs which come with importing fuel with the discovery of oil offshore the Namibian coast.