Previously disadvantaged farmers who defaulted on Agribank loans are poised for a mass-demonstration to Statehouse after the bank refused to budge to their demands while the finance ministry has also not made its position clear.
The farmers continue to clash with the bank which is seeking to recover N$500 million from them while they continue to maintain that situations beyond their control made it hard for them to honour their loans and now seek to meet the bank half way.
The protest has been set for the 23rd of May and a farmer who spoke to The Villager on condition of anonymity said they will encamp at Statehouse with their livestock and tractors until an agreement has been reached.
Agribank chief executive officer (CEO), Sakaria Nghikembua, in his response to the petition from the farmers refused to agree on restructuring their respective loans.
“The bank has consistently stated that clients approached the Bank for loan funding as individuals, that their reasons for being in arrears are different for each client and that their respective repayment circumstances are unique. Repayment arrangements must therefore be made at an individual level,” he said.
He has also refused to bow down to the demand for the cancellation of the contracts between the bank and debt collectors, Redforce Debt Management and United Africa.
Although these have already been terminated, but speaking to a weekly paper recently, Nghikembua submitted that this was not due the bank having been pressurised to do so.
Yet some of the farmers have welcomed this as a response to their push as per the petition.
The bank further flatly refused to delist farmers from ITC (credit bureau) with immediate effect stating that “Clients can only be de-listed once they have cleared their arrears or have successfully applied for consolidation of their arrears with the Bank.”
Speaking to The Villager, one of the leaders of the concerned farmers, Kahijoro Kahuure, said it would be prudent after all to have to approach the bank on an individual basis given the stand-off.
However, other farmers have refused to accept the bank’s response saying, “The contracts with debt collectors have been terminated but we are still asking them to delist us so we can go and source for money from somewhere else to come and pay them.”
“People who are benefiting from the land resettlement program are the elite who can afford to buy farms. We feel we are being discriminated because the government is not listening to our plea,” they said.
The silence from the ministry of finance, which was also petitioned by the farmers at the same time with Agribank and that from the president has now pushed the farmers to demonstrate at Statehouse.
“We will walk through Independence Avenue and go to camp at Statehouse until the president comes out because we have on several occasions asked him to intervene but it seems we are nothing to this economy. We contribute to food security!” the farmers fumed.
When The Villager called Calle Schlettwein he could not be reached on his mobile phone.
The farmers have also been irked by Nghikembua whom they said is playing a “dirty-game” for publishing their names which according to them breaks the confidentiality agreement they have with the bank.
“We are busy engaging with lawyers because we are going to take it up. All of us that have been put in that paper. He does not have the right to do that. That’s defamation of character. This is uncalled for. This issue has become personal. It has diverted from its main course and has become personal!” they lashed.
The CEO did not pick-up his phone when contacted by this publication while the bank’s manager for marketing and communications, Rino Muranda, said he was busy by the time he was called.
Statehouse’s press secretary, Dr. Alfredo Hengari was also not available to comment on whether such a demonstration would be sanctioned.