Minister frustrated with slow SME Bank prosecution

Lovemore Ranga Mataire

Namibian Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr Bernard Haufiku said he was frustrated with the slow wheels of justice in prosecuting the culprits that led to the collapse of the Small to Medium Enterprise Bank (SME Bank).

The bank is facing liquidation following what analysts say was an unsound investment of R200million into a South African company.

In an interview, Dr Haufiku said there lots of things that were not right at the inception of the bank.

“The little I know about the SME Bank is that I think from the beginning it was not well controlled and well managed. There were a lot of gaps allowed to persist in the system and you know the financial systems are one of the very sensitive systems.

“You have to tighten your grip on it, you have to see to it that things are going the way they should be going on a daily basis. It appears that gaps were left in the whole system of managing the bank, without proper monitoring, without proper control, some people just took advantage of that. This is the way I read the whole thing.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are Zimbabwean or Namibian, if you are unscrupulous, you are, wherever you find yourself on the planet and I think that’s exactly what happened to the SME Bank,” said Haufiku.

Haufiku said the collapse of the bank has not in a big way affected relations between Zimbabwe and Namibia. He said the relations between the two countries are such that it cannot be derailed by one single financial institution, especially the fact that the SME Bank was purely private commercial entity.

“It was purely a commercial entity even though it’s owned by individuals of the two countries. It was just not managed properly. All we need to do is to bring the culprits to book. For me that is the bottom-line.

“The process is on-going, I am just little bit disappointed that the process is a bit slow. I am afraid if it drags then we lose the momentum. Now is the time to fasten our legal processes in Namibia and Zimbabwe, make sure that those who are responsible are brought to book in time and we seal the gap because at the end of the day we still need the bank or a portfolio within our current development bank similar to SME Bank. Poor people still need such a facility,” he said.

He said the government had learnt hard lessons following the collapse of the bank, while expressing confidence in the Namibian legal system in bringing all those responsible to face justice.

The SME Bank was placed under liquidation last month following a successful application by the Bank of Namibia in Windhoek High Court and the failure by Zimbabwean shareholders to inject capital to stave off its closure.

It is believed the lack of capital injection and the missing R200 million was the main reason the central bank advocated for the closure of the bank. At least 208 workers lost their jobs when the bank closed.

September 2017
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