Nafinu rejects closure of SME Bank

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Edgar Brandt

Windhoek-The Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) has asked the Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein to reconsider his call for the closure of the SME Bank, saying such an action could have devastating consequences on people affected and exacerbate poverty and unemployment.

“This statement (calling for the closure of the bank) has caused concern and confusion amongst our members and also the general public, the customers of the bank. Nafinu cannot simply sit back and allow individuals to destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of workers and their families. In an environment where there are high levels of poverty and escalating unemployment we believe that every job counts,” said the general secretary at Nafinu, Asnath Zamuee.

In a recent statement, Zamuee said the closure would not benefit the country as it would cause unnecessary discomfort, further unemployment and loss of state resources. In this regard, Nafinu has called for an urgent meeting with the ministers of finance; trade and industrialisation; and public enterprises to try and find an amicable solution to the SME Bank debacle.

In fact, according to Zamuee, Nafinu has in the past approached the former SME Bank chairperson, Frans Kapofi, when it first became aware of the questionable affairs at the SME Bank.

“The purpose was to consult on how we could combine forces against our common enemy, the exploitative and parasitic structures at SME Bank. Our call was not heeded although the board was alerted to the potential mismanagement at the time,” said Zamuee.

A recent report in The Namibian newspaper indicated Schlettwein believes that bailing out the SME Bank would be a waste of state funds and that he had “serious problems” with the ownership structure of the bank.

“The minister of trade and industrialisation, the minister of finance and the Bank of Namibia (BoN) should have known about he ownership structure before availing public funds for the establishment of the SME Bank. It is a well-known secret that the BoN granted a banking licence to the SME Bank and the government, and through the ministry of trade invested money in the bank, with approval from the ministry of finance. It is therefore unacceptable to argue now that the bank should be closed due to an ownership structure. We believe therefore that the ownership structure is something that can be resolved through negotiations of other alternatives,” said Zamuee.

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