Oshikango — Backyard filling stations are on the increase at the border town of Oshikango as unemployed Angolans are enticed by the economic crisis in Angola to smuggle petroleum products into Namibia where there is seemingly a booming market for the product.
The smuggling of fuel - although not very new - is currently rife in the area and follows several other routes, such as those smuggling live and frozen chickens, amongst others.
The booming business conducted along the roads within the town appears to attract mostly taxi drivers.
The fuel is sold in five-litre containers that cost N$60 each. The price of smuggled Angolan fuel is actually N$0.80 cents more expensive than local fuel, which is sold at N$11.19 cents per litre. The only difference is that fuel smugglers are more flexible with their prices and can give a discount.
Backyard petrol jockeys are quite aware their business is illegal and are constantly on the lookout for the police. They explained that the police are hot on their trail, hence they hid their containers to avoid being arrested.
One of the young men, who did not want to identify himself, said they smuggle the cheaper fuel from Angola. "Let me fuel your car. This fuel is not only cheap, but it is much stronger than the fuel sold here," the young man said as he opened the container for viewing. While there are those who cross the border with just a small container to sell and get money instantly, it further came to light that some of the young men are salesmen for big businessmen.
One taxi driver related that backyard filling stations remain relatively cheap, because one can bid for a price they can afford, unlike at the filling stations.
Last year, the police during the Tulongeni Operation at Oshikango confiscated fuel valued at N$35,000, as well as contraband, such as cigarettes and cannabis valued over N$800,000.
The operation targeted perpetrators passing through ungazetted border points to illegally transport goods between Namibia and Angola.
The northern businessmen at a mid-budget review meeting held at the end of last week with Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein also expressed concern over the manner Angolans and Chinese conduct business.
While they do not contribute to tax collection, they charged that the newcomers have taken over the market, trading goods that are inaccessible to Namibians and at a much cheaper rate.
"These people come set up shops next to our trading business, or sometimes conduct their business outsides our properties. Where do they submit their tax returns?" asked a businessman at the meeting.
Schlettwein said the situation at hand amounts to robbing of the economy and can only be addressed in the long run with the abolition of cash transactions.
"To move away from cash is one option we are looking into. It will come, but in meantime we can take other steps to stop cash transactions into other payments, such as electronic funds transfer," he said.