• April 5th, 2020

SA workers lose N$60m invested in SME Bank

Edgar Brandt

WINDHOEK - While corruption inhibits economic growth, affects business operations, employment and investments and seriously jeopardises infrastructure development, it is more often ordinary working people who suffer the brunt of this dishonest and greedy conduct. 
This fact again came to the fore when it was reported that N$60 million of South Africa’s Municipal Workers Retirement Fund contributions has apparently been “lost” as it was invested in Namibia’s now defunct SME Bank. 
The retirement fund in question has some 26 000 members from municipalities across South Africa and controls about N$12 billion in assets. 
Besides paying out retirement benefits, the fund also provides death and disability cover, funeral cover, bursaries and home loans to its members. 
The N$60 million that has seemingly been ‘lost’ forms part of about N$200 million that South African asset manager JM Busha allegedly invested in several southern African countries, supposedly without prior written permission from the fund. 
However, when the SME Bank was placed under liquidation by Namibian courts in 2017, it surfaced that the N$60 million was part of N$380 million said to have been stolen by SME Bank’s Zimbabwe minority shareholders. This ultimately led to the bank being placed under liquidation. 
In an affidavit filed at court, the court appointed provisional liquidators put in charge of the SME Bank in July 2017 showed that between December 2013 and February 2017, at least N$247 million was transferred directly from two accounts that SME Bank held at Standard Bank Namibia and First National Bank of Namibia to recipients in South Africa. 
News of the N$60 million loss was heightened when a centre for investigative journalists unearthed the involvement of four individuals linked to disgraced South African VBS Mutual Bank. The centre revealed that the four were found to have worked to convince the Bank of Namibia that N$270 million siphoned from VBS Mutual Bank in South Africa was safe in Namibia, when it had in fact disappeared. 
Despite the SME Bank liquidation process now in full swing, the chief executive of JM Busha Investments, Joseph Busha, is adamant the money can be recovered in full, with interest. Busha also dismissed allegations that the rest of the N$200 million invested in Eswatini, Lesotho and other southern Africa countries was at risk.
In response to detailed questions by Mail & Guardian about these investments, Busha said: “This is to confirm that no funds of MWRF [the retirement fund] is lost. SME Bank is under supervision and we are engaging the liquidators. We will recover the investment. The mandate is multi-asset class which allows for international exposure. We are responsible and accountable.”
 – Additional reporting by Mail & Guardian 

Edgar Brandt
2020-01-27 07:11:02 | 2 months ago


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