Local Home-Owners Cut Out

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK First National Bank (FNB) home loan clients in Namibia will not benefit from the N$154 million that First National Bank will repay to South African home-owners because it miscalculated on mortgages. Because of the miscalculations exposed through an investigative television programme “Carte Blanche” on Sunday, FNB in South Africa must refund at least N$154 million it wrongly deducted from home-owners in that country though other estimates say the figure could be as high as N$1-billion. As a result of the said miscalculations some of the home-owners would never ever have paid off their bonds had the anomaly not been detected. Initially, the mortgagees had bought their property through Saambou that collapsed in 2002, but FNB acquired its home loan book taking over the liabilities. Recently protesters in Pretoria took to the streets alleging the bank is exploiting them by charging illegal interest calculations. Although some of these protestors were former Saambou clients who joined FNB, they claimed that even under this new management the error was never rectified and that FNB continued calculating the interest incorrectly. One of those expected to receive a refund in South Africa will receive a sum of N$77 000 while another will receive a refund of N$44 424, among others. Head of Home Loans at FNB Namibia, Thomas Slabbert, yesterday explained to New Era that chances are very slim that any Namibian would be-nefit from the amount that the mother body will pay out to those suffering at the hands of the bank’s incorrect method of charging interest. “Only previous Saambou clients will benefit. It has nothing to do with Namibia and chances are slim that there could be any former Saambou client residing here,” he said. Though the bank in neigbouring South Africa has received complaints over illegal home loan charges and high interests, Slabbert says the bank in Namibia has not received any complaints. He added that this could be due to options that the bank offers to its clients on how they can pay off their bonds. FNB took over Saambou’s home loan clients in 2002 after the now defunct bank amassed vast bad debts in its micro-lending business. The proposed payout has been challenged by some experts who believe that the said FNB’s N$154-million offer to 50 000 former Saambou clients is an under-estimate. It is alleged that about 100 000 former Saambou home loan clients have been overcharged an average of N$30 000 each, which means FNB’s total repayment should be in the region of N$3 billion.

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