The Presidency says President Hage Geingob was not the brains behind the formation of the soon-to-be liquidated SME Bank. Geingob has in the past been credited for initiating the concept of a bank that would champion the needs of small businesses who often struggle to gain access to financing because they do not have enough collateral. According to the Presidency, the Swapo-led government was the main brains behind the SME Bank initiative, and Geingob merely administered its implementation. Responding to questions over the failure of the President to pronounce himself on the SME Bank saga, Presidential spokesperson Albertus Aochamub refuted claims that Geingob was the brainpower behind the formation of the bank. “The President (Geingob) was not the brains behind the bank, but the SWAPO Party-led government is the brains behind this excellent drive. The President found the project at an advanced stage when he was appointed as Minister of Trade and Industry and all he did was to execute his functions as the Minister responsible by ensuring that the Cabinet finalized the establishment of the bank,” charged Aochamub.
Aochamub was however quick to note the Geingob’s passion for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and his belief in them as critical drivers in the national economy remains unchanged despite the impending closure of the bank by the courts. “To the contrary, this administration will continue to strengthen all the existing support instruments directed at the SME sector. The SME bank was not the only instrument aimed at support for the sector but the Ministry responsible will continue to play its part in consolidating all other programmes it manages to drive the growth of that important sector,” added Aochamub. On whether the Presidency was concerned that two senior officials who sit high up in the Presidential hierarchy are being implicated in the SME Bank saga, Aochamub vaguely retorted: “This is a country of laws and I am sure that the law under which the SME Bank was established will prevail. Where wrongdoing is alleged, it is best to follow the due process and hold people to account instead of trial of individuals by the media.” Let us not follow the law of the jungle, which spells anarchy but be procedural in managing these delicate matters carefully and with respect to the rights of all Namibians.”
The senior officials that are being implicated in the SME Bank crisis are George Simataa (Secretary to Cabinet) and Frans Kapofi (Minister of Presidential Affairs). Both Simataa and Kapofi once chaired the board of the SME Bank at different periods. According to reports Kapofi, who served as the bank’s chair between 2012 and 2015, received a loan of N$700 000 in 2014 for his farm’s equipment. Simataa allegedly got a N$5 million loan to his name from the cash-stripped bank, however, he told a local daily that he was yet to receive a single cent from the bank. During the time when Geingob declared his assets in 2015, a bank account with N$1.5 Million also formed part of his assets. Furthermore, Geingob’s recent silence and failure to pronounce himself in the ongoing SME Bank dilemma has raised eyebrows in certain quarters. More so, Aochamub added that the country’s independent judiciary should be allowed do its part without the interference of the Executive (President) branch of the State. “When the President says that there must be consequences for unlawful actions by public (and private sector) officials that must also be understood to mean that we must follow our own laws to bring to book parties found to be in breach of the laws of the land,” the state spokesperson added.
Aochamub said there should not be unnecessary “witch-hunt and wanton dismissals” of officials (in this case Kapofi and Simataa) without following established due procedures and processes in law. “Emotions cannot be our guide even when we sympathise with those of our countrymen and women who are negatively impacted by the closure of the bank. Rules must always be followed in finding recourse and appropriate redress,” he concluded. Speaking to this publication last week, All People’s Party’s (APP) Vincent Kanyetu said it was imperative for the President to Geingob pronounce himself on the SME Bank saga, something he has consistently done in cases where public funds were squandered. “It could have been better for the President (Geingob) to come out public and pronounce himself. Because his silence is driving us to nothing but to conclude that he might also be part of the beneficiaries who looted the money from the bank or his friends or comrades,” charged Kanyetu at the time. To this claim, the Presidency has maintained that Geingob has indeed pronounced himself through the Trade and SME Development Minister, Immanuel Ngatjizeko.