IN the aftermath of a vehicle burning at a service station in Katima Mulio on Monday, the Namibian Police in the Zambezi region has launched a broad investigation into the illicit sale of fuel over the border with Zambia.
The Zambezi Regional Crime Investigations Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Evans Simasiku, said that the Zambian national, whose car was destroyed after a container filled with extra fuel inside the vehicle ignited, was not arrested.
He indicated that the man will indeed form part of the investigation into the black market trade in fuel products driven by a significant difference in fuel prices in the two countries.
“Fuel in Namibia is cheaper than in Zambia but it is not against the law for a foreign national to buy fuel in Namibia and go back to his country of origin with such fuel. Only when these people cross the border at an unregulated location in the bush does the law and the breaking thereof come into play,” explained Simasiku.
The Namibian Police, along with Zambian law enforcement, have started an investigation into people crossing the border between the two countries while illegally transporting fuel back to nearby towns on the Zambian side where fuel is not only more expensive, but is also not always available.
“The process of people crossing into Namibia through the border post is regulated, but the fuel smugglers do not use this route. They use bush paths in an area we call no-man’s land to come across and buy fuel. We suspect that a crime syndicate is behind the illicit sale of fuel in Zambia and the investigation is focusing on identifying these culprits,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Regional Police Commander, Commissioner Karel Theron, berated service station owners of not complying with safety regulations when they sell fuel to people who use additional containers to transport fuel.
Shortly after the fire broke out at the Engen Service Station in Katima Mulilo on Monday, the Regional Commander said that if proper safety precautions are taken, such incident could be avoided.
Commissioner Theron indicated that Engen service station will remain closed until such time that the oil company declares it safe to operate again.
Theron echoed his colleague in calling on residents and visitors to adhere to the local law and safety measures to avoid possible tragedy in the future.
The same situation occurs at Oshikango, but in the Ohangwena Region, fuel is bought in Angola and smuggled back into Namibia where it is sold on the thriving black market of the border town.
Fuel in Angola is sold at almost half the price of that in Namibia and drives the illicit sale of petroleum products.