STANDING at a filling station for up to an hour and observing only one or two vehicles arriving to refuel, one immediately realises that it is not business as usual.
That is exactly the experience of many filling station owners in Ohangwena and Omusati, the two regions most affected by illicit fuel importation along the Namibia-Angola border.
“A number of factors are at play here,” said Josua ‘Ketu’ Mwetupunga, spokesperson for a group of filling station owners who are demanding government intervention to salvage what they deem is an endangered industry.
“First, the pump prices in Angola have for quite some time remained static at the equivalent of N$4 per litre, but here in Namibia we see a periodic increase of fuel prices, so much so that we now pay N$10 more per litre than our Angolan neighbours. This situation indirectly encourages fuel smugglers who sell at a lower price relative to the pump price at the filling stations and they still make profit,” said Mwetupunga.
He said that when vehicle owners resort to the black market to refuel their cars, it is not only the filling station owners who lose out.
“The State and the MVA Fund lose income and petrol attendants risk losing their jobs,” he said, adding that a group of business personalities has engage the relevant government officials and has met mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo twice this year to discuss the matter.
The matter is currently enjoying the government’s attention and the businessmen are hopeful that something will be done to rectify the current situation.
“Fuel smuggling cannot be allowed to continue. It poses a serious danger to the Namibian economy,” said Mwetupunga, adding that his group is demanding that in future government engage all stakeholders for their input before any fuel price increase is decided upon.
He said that a long term solution would be an agreement between Namibia and Angola that will allow Namibia to import fuel directly from its oil-rich neighbour.
“It would require setting up a refinery somewhere along the international border, which in turn would create much needed job opportunities,” he said.
Mwetupunga said that filling station owners are also not happy that state-owned Namcor, who is the supplier, has also entered the retail market and has set up a number of filling stations.