By Timo Shihepo | 2 September 2021
THE National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) has partnered with several companies to build fuel service stations across the country, an arrangement that includes politically connected individuals.
Namcor has so far entered into partnerships with more than 10 companies as part of the parastatal’s plan to build 33 service stations by 2024.
Towns with service station partnerships include Windhoek, Ongwediva, Mariental, Outapi, Karasburg, Khorixas, Oshakati, Otjiwarongo and Otavi.
So far, beneficiaries include former Namibia University of Science and Technology vice chancellor Tjama Tjivikua, businessman Peter ‘Kanu’ Amadhila, former footballer-turned-oil dealer Dan-Boy Njadila, and Roads Authority senior engineer Lazarus Kunugab.
Other partners include businessman Ashipala Uushona, Arno Diberti, businessman Vinod Kumar, and Craig Thompson.
Namcor, however, faces criticism over how it picked its partners.
The company admits it has advertised tenders for two service stations only, while it was approached by its other partners.
Some sources have raised questions over the execution of this scheme, including concerns that the parastatal has picked some inexperienced companies.
Namcor managing director Immanuel Mulunga in April insisted there was nothing sinister about the agreements.
“Dealer recruiting and selection processes within Namcor are transparent, and we follow the same procedures used by world-class organisations. In instances where Namcor owns the land and the facility, we publicly advertise dealer opportunities,” he said.
Individual service stations allegedly cost anything between N$6 million to more than N$30 million to set up.
The state-owned entity says it plans to invest N$100 million to reach a target of establishing 18 service stations in the current financial year.
According to some of the deals, Namcor pays the site’s rent, while the partner pays the rent of the structure put up by the parastatal.
Other deals involve that Namcor puts up the structure and supplies accessories, such as fridges.
The partner is, however, still expected to fund stock and other expences Namcor would not cover.
Educator-cum-businessman Tjivikua’s Waterberg Service Station, located between Khomasdal and Otjomuise is projected to be the biggest revenue generator, with an estimated investment of around N$27 million.
Tjivikua did not respond to questions sent to him.
On his Facebook page he posted an aerial view of the service station with the caption: “New venture, new experience … come one, come all.”
Namcor’s partner at Ongwediva is Arno Diberti. Together, they own Hanover Service Station.
Diberti says the partnership has not turned out the way he wished it would.
“I don’t think I am upsetting anyone by saying this, but I just feel they [Namcor] lack experience, technical know-how, support and expertise in the retail sector,” he says.
Diberti says: “This is not what I was hoping for. There are challenges, but we will sort them out.”
Diberti, who has about 15 years’ experience in the retail sector, says he is currently involved at several service stations with four oil companies.
“I didn’t use connections at all. I own the land, and I could have entered into partnerships with other companies,” he says.
Diberti says his deal with Namcor has provided a blueprint for others to succeed.
“The Ongwediva service station was one of the first, and you could say we are the guinea pigs as we struggled and others have learnt from us.”
Namcor has partnered with Ashipala Uushona at Mariental on Dynamic Mariental Service Station.
It became operational last month.
Uushona says his company invested in the project before Namcor approached them.
“We did not use any connections. We had to contract PwC to do a feasibility study and see whether the project is viable,” he says.
Namcor’s partner in the Hosea Kutako Service Station, located more than 40 km outside Windhoek near the Hosea Kutako International Airport, is businessman Anthony Abrahams.
Abrahams says everything was going well until Covid-19 turned the world on its head. He says discussing the business is sensitive, because the entity is making huge losses.
Abrahams admits he got a lot of support from Namcor managing director Mulunga and his team, but denies using connections to clinch the deal.
“I did not get any favouritism. I didn’t even know anyone from the board prior to our meeting. My entourage consisted of five people, including my wife, and an accountant,” he says.
“We did a lot of homework. This service station has provided a blueprint, because it was one of the first,” he says.
Former Namibia Rugby Union president Bradley Basson has partnered with Namcor to set up the Karas Oasis Truckport at Karasburg.
Basson says he hopes the partnership will be fruitful.
“One thing that drew me to Namcor is the fact that it is 100% Namibian owned, and I also don’t want to put my eggs in one basket,” he says.
Roads Authority senior engineer Lazarus Kunugab got a deal with Namcor to build the Khorixas Service Station at Khorixas.
The service station, which was constructed at a cost of about N$18 million, is estimated to open in October.
Namcor has pumped in about N$12 million, while the owners have invested N$6 million in the project thus far.
Its chief executive officer, Josephine Udjombala, says they approached Namcor several years ago.
“So far, so good. All efforts are being made by both parties to ensure a fruitful partnership and the success of the project,” she says.
Outapi businessman Peter ‘Kanu’ Amadhila, who is closely linked to Swapo in the Omusati region, got the deal to partner with Namcor in the Onelugo Service Station at Outapi.
He is also close to Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa.
Amadhila says he was not favoured when he partnered with Namcor.
Amadhila says he has invested about N$25 million in the project so far, and has signed a fuel supply and branding agreement with Namcor.
“I have been developing this project for about six years and I could have partnered with other players. The Namcor deal is purely a fuel supply agreement, branding and maintenance,” he says.
Vinod Kumar, whose Ekuku Service Station at Oshakati came into operation a month ago, says things are going well. He says business is improving every day.
“I am hopeful that the partnership will be fruitful. It’s a Namcor project, not mine,” he says.
Former footballer Dan-Boy Ndjadila partnered with the state-owned petroleum company to set up Namcor DJ Truckport at Otjiwarongo.
Ndjadila is an associate of former Namcor managing director Obeth Kandjoze, now minister of economic planning, and of former minister of information and communication technology Tjekero Tweya.
He is a former sport editor at the Swapo-owned Namibia Today newspaper. He has in the past managed several service stations at Walvis Bay and Kalkfeld.
Ndjadila says he is happy with the partnership, and that Namcor has approached him.
He says he has 30 years’ experience in the fuel retail sector, and is proud to work with a Namibian company.
“Those foreign-owned companies come here, milk our money, then ship it outside the country. Look around the world: Countries like Angola have Sonangol, Brazil has Sol Petroleum, etc. This should have happened a long time ago,” he says.
At Otavi, Namcor has partnered with Craig Thompson to set up the Geen Bio Service Station.
Government schemes, such as Namcor’s local drive, have been marred by allegations of cronyism.
Mulunga claims their project is clean, and that he would put his foot down if politicians try to interfere.
“I know politicians are not above the law. You can see a few ministers have lost their jobs because of doing things that are not right. If a minister comes to me and tries to put me under pressure to do something untoward. I will not do it,” he says.
“The advent of social media has brought more scrutiny to all the leaders. It’s not easy to get away with corruption any more.”
* This article was produced by The Namibian’s Investigative Unit. Send story tips via your secure email to [email protected].