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High fuel prices drive vehicle owners to Angola

High fuel prices drive vehicle owners to Angola

Staff Reporter

ANGOLAN pump prices have always been lower than the Namibian ones and there have always been Namibian vehicle owners who sneaked across the frontier to refill their tanks.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and the border was closed in March 2020 only to reopen earlier this year.

But the cross border fuel smuggling continued unabated and many smugglers were arrested and fuel containers confiscated.
By the time the border was opened earlier this year, pump prices had increased drastically in Namibia.

AT RISK: Northern service stations are battling for their continued existence as motorists stay away preferring the black market or simply cross the border to fill up in Angola. Photo: Placido Hilukilwa.

Suddenly, there is this drastic increase in the number of Namibia- registered vehicles crossing into Angola. Some drivers have passports, according to one immigration official, their most common reason for travelling is given as “visit relatives”.

But the overwhelming majority use border resident permits that allow holders to travel up to 60 km on either side of the border.

A member of the Police’s Special Field Force manning the border gate said that a cursory glance at the vehicles’ fuel tank indicators revealed something strange: “practically all the tanks are empty”.

That is because — contrary to whatever they write on the emigration forms — the vehicle owners are actually going to fill up their tanks at fuel stations on the Angolan side of the border.

“I never wanted to do this. I know that this hurts the country’s economy, but fuel prices are simply unbearable in Namibia,” said a taxi driver who identified himself only as Linus and who operates between Ondangwa in Oshana and Omuthiya in the Oshikoto Region.

A Toyota pick up driver, who is known to this reporter but preferred to remain anonymous, said that he travelled all the way from Ongwediva to Santa Clara to fill up.

He revealed that at the Angolan border post vehicle owners are required to pay an amount (plus minus N$70 in Angolan currency before one is allowed to enter.

Still he sees that as “a bargain” considering the Angolan prices are slightly less than N$5 per litre, compared to Namibia’s almost N$23.00 per litre.

However, the issue of Namibian vehicles lining up to filling up in Angola or in the secretive black market in Namibia, is both angering Angolan vehicle owners who occasionally find themselves without fuel when filling stations run dry, but is also threatening the existence of filling stations in northern Namibia.

Petrol jockeys are worried. Their jobs are at stake.

“It is only a matter of time before this business closes. Vehicles are no longer coming here. They prefer ‘Ngungula’ (smugglers) or simply cross the border,” said a petrol attendant at Omafo in the Helao Nafidi town.
A colleague, who said that has been in the industry for 13 years, agreed: “Vehicles have simply disappeared. I have never seen this before.”

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