By: Selma Taapopi
Ministry of Mines and Energy deputy director of regulation compliance and economics Carlo McLeod, said after a recent visit to northern regions affected by illegal fuel smuggling it was discovered that there are no detailed fences along the Namibia and Angolan border, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to keep the situation under control.
McLeod also states that it was unearthed that traditional homesteads near the borderline are used to store smuggled fuel from Angola and that the majority of the border guards are aging. Hence, a need to inject youthful police officers. According to McLeod, taxis are the main consumers of the smuggled fuel. McLeod shared this information during a stakeholders engagement this week after a visit in July that investigated illicit fuel trade in the Omusati and Ohangwena regions.
The mines and energy ministry was accompanied by officials from Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRA) and the Office of the Presidency on their visit.
“The findings from the mission is that there are no delineated border fences and that makes it difficult for law enforcement to maintain control of the situation. We have also seen a lot of traditional homesteads near the borderline facing both countries and these traditional homes are sometimes used as storage for smuggled fuel. We have discovered that the highest or biggest culprits of smuggled fuel are taxis that transport people and goods. We have found that the manpower and transportation are in short supply and that makes it difficult for police officers to conduct border operations,” stated McLeod. McLeod highlighted that when the police officers see these offenders carrying jerry cans they find it difficult to apprehend them because they do not have transport and resources. “These offenders are young and mobile and it is difficult for our border guards to chase these people,” said McLeod, explaining that these fuel smugglers often make fun of the officers. Furthermore, McLeod said they have experienced incidents where police officers are attacked by fuel smugglers which resulted in injuries and damage to property. "There was also a use of firearms to mitigate the situation". McLeod added that little effort is being made by the Angolan officials to mitigate fuel smuggling into the country. After the visit, McLeod said it was recommended that the government should budget specifically for infrastructure, equipment and recruitment of young police border guards. It was also recommended that the Namibian police consider deploying police officers from other regions to supplement existing officers along the affected border areas. Additionally, it was recommended that culprits be fined and sentenced to deter would-be smugglers. "Ohangwena region is more critical than in other northern regions due to close proximity of service stations in Santa Clara - Angola (where the smuggled fuel is sourced). Onamhinda in Oshikango is partially fenced (approximately 5km) but ineffective because criminals continue to cut it,’ noted McLeod.