Illegal fuel at Oshikango on the Angolan border totalling 12 600 litres was discovered at Fysal Fresh Produce, one of the biggest fresh produce retail chains in northern Namibia. The company trades in fruit and vegetables sourced mainly from South Africa, with an estimated 44% of fresh produce coming from local producers.
“The Ministry of Finance wishes to confirm that on or about 24th January 2020, illegal fuel was found in the premises of one of the prominent companies in the north, main road Oshikango, by the Customs & Excise officials,” said the ministry’s chief public relations officer, Tonateni Shidhudhu.
As a result of the illegal fuel discovery, Fysal Fresh Produce was fined N$100 000 for contravening sections 14, 91 and 93(b) of the Customs and Excise Act 20 of 1998 (as amended), even though the value of the fuel if bought in Namibia at N$13 per litre would be more than N$163 000. Angolan fuel sells for about N$6 per litre for petrol and for about N$7.30 per litre for diesel, which is about half the price charged at Namibian service stations. However, the Ministry of Mines and Energy has cautioned that Angolan fuel does not meet Namibian refined fuel standards.
Meanwhile, Shidhudhu rejected accusations on social media that Fysal’s illegal fuel was confiscated by Customs and Excise Directorate staff members for personal use as completely false. “The fuel was collected by Wesco Waste Management (Pty) Ltd as per the arrangements with the Namibian government for safe disposal,” said Shidhudhu, adding that the finance ministry is tracing two more companies being suspected of engaging in similar illegal activities.
When contacted for comment, the manager of Fysal Fresh Produce in Oshikango, a certain Mr Ishmael, was unreachable but one of the company’s employees, known as Fuad, was quick to refuse to make any comment, only saying: “As far as I am concerned, the matter has been dealt. I don’t know what happened, as I was on leave”.
Recently, the energy ministry expressed concern regarding illegal black-market activities taking place at Oshikango. “Illegal fuel sales have been reported with increasing frequency over the past year,” read a statement from the ministry of mines and energy.
The Namibian law states that only licensed wholesalers are allowed to import fuel into the country and only licensed retailers are allowed to resell fuel. The ministry emphasised that fuel smuggled from other countries does not meet the specifications prescribed for all the vehicles currently operating on Namibian roads. In most cases, the smuggled fuel contains high amounts of sulphur, which damages the environment and vehicle engines. However, regardless of all the warnings, many motorists with access to Angolan fuel prefer this, as they complain about high Namibian fuel prices which many deem unaffordable.