Was Shipanga on Internship at Nedbank?

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THE corporate world has its own culture and language of doing and saying things. Recently, the case of Martin Shipanga, the former MD at Nedbank and one of the shortest serving MDs in Namibia’s banking history, caught my attention as an interesting one. On the surface, it is a clear case of someone making headway in the corporate world but, unfortunately, making headlines in the process. But deep down, there are some under-currents to all these, I think – but I might be dead wrong. My immediate question is whether Shipanga resigned or was ‘forced’ to? People don’t always resign out of their own will. Or because of some pull factors, i.e. a better offer. But sometimes there are push factors, i.e. a hostile working environment – thus forcing the person to look for an alternative, even if that alternative is not necessarily better than the one the person is leaving behind. A press statement announcing Shipanga’s resignation last month said: Shipanga was leaving Nedbank to take up “a senior role in the private sector focusing on the use of technology”. What crap is this? A senior role? The guy is an MD of a leading bank already. In the private sector? He is in the private sector already for God’s sake. Now listen to this one. Within a span of 24 months, Shipanga is said to have been instrumental in repositioning the Nedbank brand as well as transforming the financial institution as a Namibian entity. And Shipanga himself says: his “specific assignment at the bank has been completed” – hence the internship title. Now looking at Shipanga’s CV, there is hardly any trace of previous banking experience or qualifications. So, this was not someone coming from Barclays or City Bank with 10 years or so of experience. So, how did he manage to transform a bank within 24 months? My other question is whether Shipanga’s move from Nedbank to NET1 was a horizontal or vertical one? Well, he is now to be called vice-president. So, this might be a very big post indeed. But I would think being an MD of one of the leading commercial banks in the country is a pinnacle that only a few can dream about. So, why this lightning exit? Some people might say: why pick on the guy? Why nit-pick? The answer is this: I think there is a culture of window-dressing developing in Namibia – justified within the parameters of affirmative action and black economic empowerment. You put black faces at the top of these private entities for political, social and hence economic reasons but the policy/decision making functions are located in boardrooms somewhere in Johannesburg, London, New York, Tel Aviv, etc. So far, we have had three black MDs at the helm of three of the four commercial banks in Namibia: the late Lazarus Ipangelwa at FNB, Shipanga at Nedbank and Theo Mberirua at Standard Bank Namibia. The immediate question is whether the hostile banking culture in Namibia has changed in any significant manner since the appointments of these people? Except to count the number of branches that they have opened in this or that rural town. Take the issue of the exorbitant banking fees, for example. This is something that hit the poorest most and who happen to be blacks. What do they do? The MDs defend those fees. Today, if one wants to open a bank account, one is literally treated like a criminal – doing background checks and all sorts of things, even though you are the one bringing in the money. Long Live Affirmative Action and BEE Solo Isaack Cape Town, SA