Windhoek — Lawyers representing Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi and Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa have demanded a formal apology from the general-secretary of the Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu), Asnath Zamuee, for allegedly suggesting they looted money from the recently liquidated SME Bank.
Zamuee purportedly made the remarks when she led demonstrations by workers at the bank on Tuesday last week. It is understood lawyers Sisa Namandje & Co wrote to Zamuee demanding that the unionist unconditionally and publicly retract remarks that portrayed the two government officials in a bad light.
"You publicly and yet gratuitously made defamatory allegations against our clients by expressly stating that our clients are guilty of misappropriation of funds and that they must be prosecuted and their bank accounts should be frozen," reads a letter from the lawyers.
"We have been instructed to demand, as we hereby do, that you unconditionally and publicly retract such allegations on NBC television and in the print media and simultaneously make an unconditional apology on or before 14 July, failing which our clients shall proceed and institute legal actions against you for damages."
The law firm says such allegations were widely publicised on social media and prominently reported on NBC. "Our clients deny all allegations of criminal activities you level against them," the letter further reads.
"Our clients' feelings, dignity and good names have gravely suffered on account of your defamatory allegations and still continue suffering, as they have since been subjected to various public insults by members of the public following your allegations," the lawyers said.
Zamuee yesterday said what preoccupied her time at present is the wellbeing of the 208 workers who had lost their jobs at the bank - and not apologising to the two officials.
"I am not going to waste my time with that. My concern right now is the workers," she said.
She went on to reveal that Nafinu has started a process of instituting a class action lawsuit against the former directors of SME Bank. A class action lawsuit is one in which a group of people with the same or similar injuries caused by the same product or action sues as a group.
This follows the announcement last week that all 208 staff members at the beleaguered SME Bank have lost their jobs, following the termination of their services by the bank's provisional liquidators Bruni & McLaren. All SME Bank workers' contracts will end on July 31.
Zamuee said she is of the view that the insolvency of the bank was the result of gross negligence and carelessness on the part of those entrusted with the responsibility to ensure prudent administration of public funds deposited at the bank.
"The board failed miserably in its oversight function and now innocent employees have to pay with their jobs," Zamuee remarked.
She said their fight is not against the liquidators, but against government and the former executive management, as well as the board of directors of the bank.
Former SME Bank directors include Tawanda Mumvuma, Joseph Banda, Enock Kamushinda, Alec Gore, Ozias Bvute and George Simataa.
She said it was extremely unfair that poor people were often locked up for lesser crimes, while politically connected and high-ranking officials never face the same treatment.
"This can't be right. The employees suffered extreme emotional breakdown when they were served with termination letters and one had to be rushed to hospital," she said. "This country belongs to all of us and some people can't be more powerful than others."
Those responsible for "the mess" at the bank were waiting for the dust to settle on this issue to simply move on to their next project, she charged.
"This will not happen. The fight has just begun. As a country, we have been taken for a ride for too long and the SME Bank situation is an eye-opener, especially when we notice the deafening silence from government in respect of possible [criminal charges] against those responsible for the closure of the bank," she stressed.