Ex-SME Bank employees demand compensation


Former staff members of the defunct SME Bank are demanding compensation from government, almost two years after the Bank of Namibia successfully applied to the Windhoek High Court to have it closed following the disappearance of more than N$200 million, which was purportedly “invested” in South Africa. 

The services of all 208 staff members of the SME Bank were terminated effective from 31 July 2017. The workers were offered one month’s full salary as notice pay; leave pay, according to the leave records of the bank and severance allowance calculated at one week for each completed year of service as well as arrear wages and salaries.
Media reports suggest that government invested over N$400 million as start-up capital when the bank opened its doors in 2012, while state-owned entities pumped in over N$500 million in investments.
The ex-employees of the bank appealed to President Hage Geingob this week asking for more monetary compensation or jobs elsewhere since they have been finding it difficult to secure employment. 
The group say most of them remain unemployed (and underpaid, when given jobs) due to a certain stigma attached to the SME Bank. “Even government is not employing. Mr President is it fair to say that our own government is failing its people, and if not why has there been nothing done about this?
“You made provision for the ‘Struggle Kids’, so why not take care of us?  We are also victims and are paying for a crime that we didn’t commit. The Zimbabwean shareholders have taken care of all their employees by giving them permanent jobs in Zimbabwe, thus we humbly implore you to also think of helping us.”
They claim that the Geingob Administration has given them the silent treatment despite numerous attempts to have an audience with the president. 
A representative of the ex-employees told the Windhoek Observer on Wednesday that they are disappointed that President Geingob has ignored their calls for a meeting in which they plan to air their grievances regarding the closure of the SME Bank. 
She said there has been no communication from the president’s office despite promises of a meeting more than a month ago. “It is indeed extremely sad and inhumane to see hundreds of young people, who put you in power, lose their jobs because of a few greedy individuals. Mr President, as you boast about your 87 percent victory in your political speeches, be reminded that now it’s your turn to uphold your end of the bargain,” she said. 
Attempts to have an audience with officials from the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, Ministry of Finance; and the Office of the Prime Minister have also fallen on deaf ears. 
“None of the above institutions have responded so far to our plight.  All we get from a government we helped vote into power is a cold, silent and stepchild-like treatment.”
Former presidential spokesperson, Albertus Aochamub told English daily, The Namibian in 2017 that government is always concerned about the loss of jobs, and will always do its best to secure the futures of the affected families.
Despite this promise, government has not done anything to alleviate the plight of the former SME Bank employees, some of whom had bought cars and houses on loan just before the bank was liquidated.

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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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