Previously disadvantaged farmers who defaulted on Agribank loans expressed a sigh of relief last week when Agribank and Redforce Debt Management bid each other good bye, but it in no way suggests that their problems are over yet.
Redforce won a tender to collect Agribank monies from the farmers and had become a headache to them as its involvement meant additional financial implications on the farmers.
Some farmers that spoke to The Villager admitted that money was being taken from their accounts to pay the debt collecting company for its services on top of that which the bank needed.
“And we would have loved to do that financial obligation with Agribank and not with a third force,” said one of the leading voices of the aggrieved farmers, Kahijoro Kahuure.
“If Agribank had their own debt collectors and we were going to be penalised because of our outstanding debts by Agribank through its debt collectors, many of us would be happier. But for struggling farmers to be given to a third force, to us, that was a slap in the face,” he said.
It is not clear why Agribank has decided not to continue with the debt collecting company as yet but the farmers had called for the immediate removal of Redforce as part of their demands in a protest that saw them nocking at the bank’s door.
For Kahuure, the struggle continues and they maintain that they are not refusing to pay what they owe, but insist that the bank should rather have used money they were paying the debt collector to engage and mentor them.
“The problem has not been cured,” another farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
He sees the termination of Redforce as a mere temporary assistance because it signals the removal of the 8% that was added on top of their debts.
However, the bank has not indicated that the new developments meant blacklisted farmers would be removed from the list.
“What’s next for us is we need to know if the people are going to be delisted. We are up for discussion when it comes to the 35% that the bank is asking. So we are still keen to keep our conversation going with the bank and government.”
“Short term solutions were the removal of the debt collectors, delisting of farmers on ITC and then an affordable percentage that we can negotiate with the bank. Those were the short term proposals. We do not know what the bank is going to do after the removal of the debt collector,” he said.
Meanwhile, Agribank is up in arms with the farmers as the hunt down for N$500 million in arears has already lit up a torch with the farmers who have blamed the removal of the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme and drought for their misfortune.
From about 2 000 accounts handed over to Redforce last year, it collected N$80 million and speaking to a local weekly paper, its chief executive officer, Julius Nyamazana said that signaled a 75% success rate.
Yet the farmers are not comfortable due to the company having been given their confidential information by Agribank.
“We signed a confidentiality agreement with the bank when we took up our loans. They took our information and handed it over to a third party without our consent. Now the question is how safe is our information in the hands of a third party? Their contract has been terminated, fine, but how safe is our information that they held for eight months?” quizzed the farmer.