Union Rescues Workers from Loan Sharks

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Due to a lack of sufficient wages, hundreds of workers in the country are prone to borrow money from opportunistic loan sharks to make ends meet, as it appears the vast majority of the workers do not have access to credit facilities. In view of this, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), through its business arm Nam-mic Financial Services, has over the past several years operated a micro-lending service for its members countrywide. This was made possible through a micro-loan agreement signed between the union and Bank Windhoek on December 19, 2001, two months after Nam-mic was established by Founding Father of the Nation Dr Sam Nujoma. “We saw the urgent need to rescue the workers from loan sharks in the micro-loan business … workers don’t have wages because they have been milked by loan sharks,” said former president of NUNW Risto Kapenda at a welcoming dinner of the union’s 4th Congress held at a local resort in Windhoek. Affiliated members of the union now have the opportunity to borrow money from Nam-mic Financial Services. Kapenda added his voice to the fact that the time for workers also to have a stake in the economic cake is long overdue and that such a business arm like Nam-mic FS is a step in the right direction. “We have to demand that cake, that is why we have this business arm as long it is not interfering with the labour management issues of the union,” he added. Since its establishment five years ago, Nam-mic FS as the leading Namibian broad-based Black Economic Empowerment company has strived to create opportunities for its members by building and distributing wealth to all its stakeholders. By distributing wealth to the previously disadvantaged, it is seen to ultimately eradicate poverty in the country. According to the Managing Director of Nam-mic FS, Sackey Aipinge, the union’s business link is therefore viewed as preventing workers from entering into irresponsible borrowing from loan sharks, while at the same time ploughing back money into the pockets of the beneficiaries. Currently, the market value of the company stands at over N$100-million, which is commission paid to the affiliate unions. Through the micro-loan scheme the average commission paid to the participating unions amounted to N$150 000, while the first dividend of N$300 000 was declared in June last year. Major current shareholders in the union business arm include Namibian Mineworkers Investment Holding that owns (MUN) 29,5 percent, Capricorn Investment Holdings 27,5 percent, Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union Investment (NAFAU) 6,5 percent, Namibia Trade and Agricultural Union (NATAU) 2,5 percent, Namibia Farmworkers Union (NAFWU) 1 percent, Effort Investment Holdings 18 percent, Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) 5 percent and Labour Investment Holding owns 10 percent. Nam-mic FS is regarded as the largest BBE entity, where the majority shareholding falls in the hands of the NUNW affiliates. This means that it’s over 70 percent owned by workers’ investment companies. Aipinge noted that the money from Nam-mic FS has to be felt by the workers on the ground and the benefits therefore need to filter through to them. “We need to create a culture of saving and responsible borrowing in the market because some workers are taking home only N$20,00 or even zero,” added Aipinge. The company is also looking into the launching of legal access cover for its members this year, where it will cover for civil action, legal action in labour courts and any events leading to criminal action. Several other benefits like funeral, medical, retrenchment cover, hospitalisation, savings, unemployment, pregnancy cover are already in place. Calls were also made for various businesses and companies to look into subsidising transport arrangements for its workers, since most of them still make use of public transport, which is costly at the end of the day.

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