President snubs SME depositors

16 August 2019 Author   NYASHA FRANCIS NYAUNGWA
President Hage Geingob is alleged to have snubbed a group of SMEs that collectively lost millions of dollars after the SME Bank collapsed in July 2017 following a looting spree by its Zimbabwean minority shareholders.
The group, led by a lady who only identified herself as Chuchu, told the Windhoek Observer that they were denied the chance to ask the president when they would get their money back at his last Town Hall Meeting in Windhoek on Thursday.
Chuchu said she and her colleagues have been left impoverished by the closure of SME Bank.
“It has been over two years since the bank closed, but we are still to receive our money deposited in SME Bank. We are told the case is before the court, but until when shall we remain patient when our houses, cars and properties are being repossessed?
“Some of us SMES have since closed our businesses. We are suffering. Is this the Harambee that the president was talking about?”
Chuchu said she and her group wanted to know from the president when they were going to get at least the N$25,000 guaranteed by law.
“We are tired we want our money now,” she demanded.
“Government owns 65 percent of the bank; they are the majority shareholder, so why can't our own government feel pity for us and give our money? I believe that them not wanting to hear us out, means they are avoiding us.”
Chuchu added that her group had tried on more than one occasion to have an audience with the president without success.
“We have failed every time we try to talk to the president. We try to make appointments, but nothing. So since our plea is falling on deaf ears we have resolved to organise a demonstration.”
She also said that they have tried without much success to speak to the liquidators David Bruni and Ian McLaren.
“The liquidators promised to make payments to us last year in June, and we gave them our banking details, but those payments were put on hold after the other party owning 35 percent opposed the ruling granted by the high court.
“Now we hear about the other money that was discovered in SA. This should be more than enough to pay us our money or the N$25,000 guaranteed by the law. It could help us.”
Chuchu was referring to the N$79 million that was reportedly returned to Namibia from South Africa.
The Namibian reported in March that about N$79 million of the missing N$350 million belonging to the SME Bank was allegedly paid to several individuals in Namibia through their local banks.
President Geingob, one of the high profile people with money deposited in the bank, is said to have withdrawn his money at the eve of the bank’s collapse.
But in an interview with the state-owned New Era, Geingob said he had spent most of it before the liquidation and only has about N$40,000 left in the bank.
In 2015, he declared that he had about N$1,4 million in an SME Bank account.
A lawyer who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity said the depositors have to approach the liquidators with their demands.
“They have to go and see the liquidators because they are basically now the owners of the bank. If the liquidators are not helping in any way, then they can approach the court because the liquidators are not above the law,” the lawyer said. 
“My advice to the depositors is that they should have a paper trail of their demands and commitments by the liquidators. With that they can approach the court and say these are our demands and these were the commitments that were not acted upon.”
The lawyer also said the depositors can also ask the liquidators what action they have taken against the perpetrators since they are known.
Sources familiar with the current dealings of the SME Bank told the Windhoek Observer that the defunct lender collects not less than N$2 million from debtors every month.
The director of the Financial Intelligence Centre, Leonie Dunn, was last week forced to deny suggestions that the centre had turned a blind eye when N$350 million disappeared from SME Bank.
Court papers show that numerous transfers of money through which close to N$350 million was allegedly stolen from the SME Bank were covered up through fake documents to make the transactions appear like investments made in South Africa.
“The FIC surely did not turn a blind eye. It would be a lie to say the FIC was not involved [in tracing lost funds]. Our involvement started in 2014,” Dunn said.


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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