SME Bank depositors threaten demo

27 September 2019 Author   NYASHA FRANCIS NYAUNGWA
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 have threatened to take to the streets after they were snubbed by President Hage Geingob and the bank’s liquidators.
The group, led by a woman who only identifies herself as ‘Chuchu’, told the Windhoek Observer recently that they were denied the chance to speak to the bank’s liquidators David Bruni and Ian McLaren and President Hage Geingob during his last Town Hall Meeting in Windhoek in August.
“These people are avoiding us. Why can’t they take time and give us a proper briefing,” Chuchu queried.
She said they entrusted that bank with their money for safekeeping, however, “It has now turned out to be a nightmare for us because we don’t get any answers about our money.  We never took any loans, we entrusted the bank with our money, but this is the treatment that we get.  Why can’t they give us even the guaranteed N$25,000 with the money that they got from South Africa?
“If they could give us the chance to meet with them that could have been better, but they are mute.  How can they have the same stories for the past three years? What are they doing in court?”
Chuchu said they have been left with no option but to start mobilising for a demonstration which might force the liquidators to talk to them.
We are now going to ask for permission from the City of Windhoek and City Police for us to demonstrate.  That is the only way maybe they can talk to us,” she said.
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. 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?
“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 government feel pity for us and give us our money? I believe that they are avoiding us.”
Chuchu previously told the Windhoek Observer 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.”
President Geingob, one of the high profile people with money deposited in the bank, is said to have withdrawn his money on the eve of the bank’s collapse.
But in an interview with the state-owned New Era newspaper, 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.
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 (FIC) Leonie Dunn, last week, was 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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