14 July 2017

Namibia: 208 Lose Jobs At SME Bank

Windhoek — Provisional liquidators Bruni & McLaren have officially informed employees of the SME Bank that their employment contracts cease on July 31.

The bank has a staff complement of 208, New Era was informed.

The employees' fate was sealed just a day after, on Tuesday, they held a peaceful demonstration during which they opposed the closure of the bank.

The bank was closed down after the High Court earlier this week ruled that the bank - which is essentially insolvent - can no longer continue to operate.

The Bank of Namibia, arguing in court in favour of closure, said SME Bank has potentially lost nearly N$200 million invested with foreign entities.

The Namibian Police have been working closely with South Africa's National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and served summons on several entities entangled in the web of transactions involving the bank's money.

Namibia's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) this week said it was closely monitoring developments at the bank. Namibian Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga told New Era on Wednesday that preliminary investigations pointed to potential organised crime.

"The consequence of this provisional liquidation order is that the services of all staff are terminated," the liquidators announced in a letter dated July 12.

"Your claim against the bank, which has absolute preference above any other claims, will accordingly be as follows: one month full salary as notice pay, leave pay according to the leave records of the bank [and] severance allowance calculated as to one week for each completed year of service, and arrear wages and salaries," noted the statement.

The provisional liquidators added that in the meantime they would protect the integrity of the bank's data and records and assist in the orderly collection of monies due to the bank - therefore temporary employment will be offered to certain employees to carry out these duties.

The Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) general secretary, Asnath Zamuee, in an interview published elsewhere in this edition, said the government, which owns 65 percent of the bank, should recapitalise the company and restructure it for success to be realised and jobs to be saved.

"Our position is that government should assist the bank, just like they do with Air Namibia, NBC and other public enterprises," she said.

"Any developing country needs this kind of bank. It has not fulfilled its mandate, because it had the wrong guys."

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein last week confirmed that Treasury has turned down a request to pump N$359 million into the bank, to help sustain it.

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