Ex-SME Bank staff want loans written off

16 February 2018 Author   Kaula Nhongo
Unemployed ex-employees of the defunct SME Bank have written to government in a bid to have the loans that they took from their former employer be written off, claiming that they are not able to repay them.
This comes after the bank’s liquidators sent out letters of demand last month, requesting that those who took out loans have until end of February to settle their loans or be handed over to debt collectors.
The staff members accused the liquidators of reneging on an agreement entered into last July which stated that they would not be pressured into settling their loans until after they acquire new employment.
They also claim that their foreign colleagues are getting away with murder while they are being forced to pay money that they do not have.
An ex-employee of the bank, who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity, said they were not in a position to settle their debts as they were still trying to get back on their feet after the sudden job losses last year.
He said they were told last year that they would only start paying back their loans after securing new jobs.
According to the former SME Bank employee, the bulk of the over 200 employees took out loans to buy cars and property.
The emotional and distraught employee complained that their financial situation has worsened and some of them have had to settle for meagre paying jobs just to get by.
‘We do not think that there is a solution to our problems. We did not choose to be in this situation. We are struggling to make ends meet. We are already frustrated and now they want to add to that frustration,” he said.
He added that it was unfair for the bank to ask Namibian ex-employees to pay back loans while their Zimbabwean counterparts were not required to do so.
“We had Zimbabweans who were working for the bank and they also owed the bank, but they did not pay. How can we be the only ones who are expected to pay? They should have mercy on us.”
SME Bank terminated the services of 208 staff members 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 as well as severance allowance calculated at one week for each completed year of service, and arrears wages and salaries.
Because the bank was fairly new, the highest compensation an employee received was five weeks pay while the majority received three and two weeks’ pay.
Those who had not worked at the bank for a year went home with nothing.
The ex-employees, through NAFINU, have since petitioned the Office of the President and the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation to assist them.
In a letter addressed to President Hage Geingob, sent beginning of this month, the former employees said they want to be cushioned against the negative impact of the retrenchment.
They complained that while they were not responsible for the demise of the bank, they are suffering more than those responsible.
They are asking to be paid compensation equivalent to nine months salaries as well as the writing off of the loans owed.
NAFINU General Secretary, Asnath Zamuee, urged government to intervene.
“These people are no longer working, circumstances have changed. People are indeed in serious need of help,” Zamuee 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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