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Namibia: SME Bank staff blame gov’t for their fate

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Staff members of the troubled SME Bank on Tuesday held a peaceful demonstration to express their anger at the government after the High Court ruled in favour of an application by the Bank of Namibia to have the bank liquidated.The employees through Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) have accused the government specifically the central bank for taking a unilateral decision to close the bank without taking their plights into account.

In a petition handed to the bank’s majority shareholder, the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, the workers said the government has been ignoring their warnings about mismanagement at the bank since 2014.

They demanded that action be taken against the culprits.

“Why should we pay for their misconduct? In terms of the Companies Act, directors can be held personally liable for gross negligence and conduct inconsistent with their duties,” said Nafinu’s general secretary Asnath Zamuee.

Zamuee, who handed the petition to the ministry’s permanent secretary Gabriel Shilimbo, said failure to hold those accountable should not be an excuse to shut down the bank.

High Court Judge Hannellie Prinsloo on Tuesday handed down a provisional order for the liquidation of the SME Bank. In motivation, Prinsloo stated that she was satisfied that the Bank of Namibia made a strong case against the troubled bank.

As a result, the Master of the High Court has appointed Ian McLaren and David Bruni as liquidators to handle the affairs of SME Bank until September 2017.

The bank is being liquidated barely five years after it was established to provide financial assistance to small and medium size enterprises that normally do not have credit access at commercial banks.

However, trouble started in March 2017 after the central bank fired the senior management and the board for mismanagement,

The central bank accused the executives including former CEO Tawanda Mumvuma of falsifying documents about the N$200 million investment in South Africa that has since disappeared into thin air.

The senior management of the bank was mostly Zimbabwean expatriates including Mumvuma, who have since left the country, despite a court case pending in the High Court in which they are demanding to be reinstated.

The Namibian government thought the through the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development is the majority shareholder in the bank with 65%, while two Zimbabwean minority shareholders – he Metropolitan Bank of Zimbabwe and World Eagle Properties owns a combined 30 percent.

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