A tale of two groups desperate for their jobs

14 July 2017
We understand that on Monday, Secretary General of the SWAPO Party, Nangolo Mbumba called an emergency meeting of the Politburo. 
The agenda of that meeting reportedly included planning for the Oshikoto, Omaheke and Khomas Regional Party Conferences as the outcome of these party elections impacts on the candidacy of Hage Geingob as party president, which in turn, has a bearing on the jobs of those appointed by that administration. 
The winner of the ruling party top job will likely be the next president of the country and that means all who occupy positions appointed by Geingob (most of whom have been comfortable in such jobs for decades), support the continuation of his dominance over the ruling party.
While these powerful politicians shuffle and manoeuvre to keep their jobs by working to try to ensure that their preferred candidate wins the vacant post of the SWAPO Party president at the upcoming Congress, 208 shocked employees of the SME Bank have no options available for preserving theirs. 
These ordinary Namibians are locked out, fearful, worried and uncertain about their futures and that of their families. We hope that the same vigour used by political leaders to secure their own positions by ensuring Geingob’s election as party president, is brought to bear in support of the disillusioned and upset SME Bank workers.
In our view, there is a morbid symmetry in this situation that is a prime example of how those who are in power value their own welfare (that is, having a job to support their own families) over working on behalf of ordinary Namibians desperate for solutions to help them feed their families and meet their obligations.
We have yet to see the ruling party’s vote of support for those SME Bank workers’ plight?  We have yet to hear a speech of commiseration (at the very least) by the president of the country, acknowledging this group of Namibians that are in need of leadership and in search of options. 
We are concerned whether members of Cabinet (who all have SWAPO Party official roles within various regions) and State House are so focussed on securing support for Geingob in the regional party conferences, that the situation of the SME Bank workers has been forced into the backseat of problem-solving.
We cannot help, but juxtapose the two situations.  Region by region, the foundation of support that carried Geingob into power has fallen away or may no longer be certain.  As the urgency of the situation sets in, the SWAPO hierarchy could be aware that a change in party leadership might mean an impending end of their jobs, perks, subsidised cars and homes and/or their access to and influence on decision-makers.
Their natural self-preservation response is to scramble to keep bread on their tables.  Getting Geingob elected as party president and then re-elected as State president preserves their livelihoods; so it is their top priority.  To the Windhoek Observer, it appears that the precipitously retrenched SME Bank workers are being left in the dust of the political scramble for the presidency of the SWAPO Party, to fend for themselves.  If this is the case, it is a sad state of affairs.
As the drama unfolds at the apparent disgrace of the SME Bank that has wrecked the lives of 208 people and their families, not to mention the SME depositors, and those with whom business loans were being negotiated, we are aghast. 
Namibia’s track record of ‘investments’ by its various institutions is poor. Recall the mostly forgotten debacle of ‘investments’ in strange places in South Africa that swallowed SSC millions in the Avid affair, the disappearance of N$24 million of MET money in the Kora affair and the vanished hundreds of millions in ‘investments’ of the GIPF affair.  Have we learned nothing about the risky and seemingly criminal nature of sending hundreds of millions outside of the country to spurious brokers and businesses?
Surely, every conman in the world must flock to Namibia to find gullible boards and executives to whom to sing siren songs of mythically high returns with super safe ‘investments’ or to give ‘brown envelopes’ under the table in exchange for transfers of money into strange foreign accounts. 
The SME Bank seems to have fallen prey to its own hubris and joined the ignoble list of loss-of-money ‘affairs’ noted above.  This time, someone must be held personally accountable for this mess.  As the saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. 
The board of directors of the SME Bank and its executive team, along with whomever approved the transfer of the funds out of the country, must be tarred and feathered (figuratively speaking).  It is ironic that the chairman of the SME Bank’s Board of Directors and Secretary to Cabinet, George Simataa had the gall to publicly lambast Finance Permanent Secretary, Ericah Shafudah, for her supposed role in the overspending of the highly inflated oil storage facility construction project, while he is possibly neck-deep in fault in the loss of N$200 million from the SME Bank and its subsequent closure.  
This paper is concerned that nothing has changed in Namibia in terms of holding decision-makers accountable for their poor fiscal decision-making, lack of due diligence, irresponsible board oversight and management decisions or outright theft, particularly when State money (that is, taxpayers’ money) is involved. 
All too often, those at the bottom carry the pain caused by such financial disasters, while those at the top drive off into the sunset in their expensive cars and continue their lives with absolutely no interruption.  This time, there must be a personal price paid by all involved in the SME Bank affair.
We wait at the foot of the guillotine, alongside the 208 retrenched SME Bank employees and their dependents, for the guilty heads to roll.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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