SME bank – yet another money-loss debacle . . .when will we learn?

When will Namibia learn to guard its wallet better? We allow ourselves to be pick-pocketed far too often. This time, the named culprit is Enoch Kamushinda, a director of the now-defunct SME Bank. But, the real culprits are all who ignored a Bank of Namibia (BoN) warning and still allowed a man with shaky business histories in several countries to have the keys to a bank full of Namibian taxpayer dollars. These people must be named, shamed, held accountable. They should be in the dock alongside their criminal buddy.

All who took quiet ‘loans’ from Kamushinda or smoothed the way for meetings for him, must be named and held accountable. If they are on the state payroll, they should be suspended pending investigations. If they are in the private sector, they should be sued to recover any funds paid to them by Kamushinda. Let their tax returns be audited to see if they paid tax on their ‘gifts’.

Sadly, it seems that the word is out about Namibia. Anyone with a ‘connect’ can scam us blind, steal whatever isn’t nailed down and then waltz right out without anyone doing anything about it. We have known about the thieving at the SME Bank for a very long time.

It must be mentioned that people in high places, several years ago, spoke defensively about the SME Board Chairman, a high government official responsible for protecting state funds. He may not have been up to the task he was given but was never held accountable. Where is the accountability of the Board of Directors when scams such as this happen?

Depositors have lost their money (except for N$25,000). Employees lost their jobs and now their loans are being called in precipitously.

Even with this statement by Judge Collins Parker who found that N$247 million has been stolen by Kamushinda, nothing will happen. We all knew that Kamushinda and his imported cabal of workers at the bank and their Namibian co-conspirators saw that bank as their buffet. They ate well.

Bank officials in view of their Board set everything up. They put on the papier-mâché and window dressing, handed out some loans and then took Namibia to the cleaners in broad daylight.

For the SME Bank liquidators dreaming of their percentages if they can find more money, wake up and smell the coffee. That money has lined the pockets of dozens of people here and in other countries years ago. It is long gone.

Kamushinda is correctly the fall guy in this SME Bank matter according to Judge Collins. Will the government engage all intelligence services to track him down? Will he be arrested and his accounts sequestered? Will he be dragged back to Windhoek in handcuffs? Probably not.

We recall the KORA criminal Ernest Adjovi. This is almost the same kind of thing. People waltz into Namibia using ‘connections.’ They sing a nice song and pose for photos. They cheer for themselves until Namibians around them believe the fairy tale. Then, they take the money and run.

Let us not be overly xenophobic and pretend that criminality, scam artists and thieves are imported. We have many homegrown tenderpreneurs, 10 percenters, kick-back kings, and embezzlers. We’ve got a Fishrot crew sitting in jail awaiting trial.

Imagine if Kamushinds and all involved had not set their own SME bank dinner table. Imagine that we had a viable SME bank operating as it was envisioned. Imagine it was using the state funds to bail out viable SMEs during the pandemic. Imagine how many could have been helped to stay open and keep some of their employees until things turned around. That possibility was sacrificed on the altar of GREED.

We recall the red lights flashed by the Bank of Namibia as far back as 2009 when the SME Bank promoters first applied to the Central Bank for its license. BoN smartly hesitated, demanding another plan. It was alleged back then that political pressure was applied to force the BoN to license the venture. People should go back and now, check the record and name those who pushed the issue of offering a license to the SME Bank with Enoch Kamushinda involved.

Recall that Cabinet had to approve a new shareholding for the SME Bank. The BoN had insisted that the interest of Kamushinda be reduced to 5 percent. The man originally had 35 percent of the bank in his pocket!

At the time, many at the BoN wanted Kamushina to be completely out of the deal. There were reports of his bad reputation at that time in Zimbabwe for unsavoury business practices. Yet, at the end of the day, the trap was set and Namibia fell right in for almost six years.

Now here we are again looking at lost hundreds of millions. A few of the greedy elite, with expensive cars and flashy lifestyles, are living large at the expense of the people who have nothing. When will we learn?

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