The debate around whether commercial banks are profiteering from clients through what MPs call multiple unethical charges triggered intense discussion in the National Assembly.

This comes after the Deputy Minister of Works and Transport, Veikko Nekundi, moved a motion on the possibility of investigating exorbitant interest rates charged by commercial banks.

In their contributions, several MPs highlighted the gravity of the situation, suggesting immediate action to address the injustices that they agreed that banks subject clients to.

"The comparatively high cost of financial intermediation in Namibia, relative to other middle-income countries, not only disadvantages those who incur the direct cost of losing part of their income as transaction costs, but it also prevents others, particularly the former disadvantaged individuals, from engaging in any banking transactions," said Swapo MP Modestus Amutse.

The option for many of these individuals is to keep their money at home, which, though, makes them susceptible to robberies.

Keeping money at home also comes without the earning potential of a bank account, even if this does not always amount to much.

"When considering bonds and the interest they generate, you would agree that there was a time when meaningful interest could be earned on deposits. However, currently, the interest received on bank account deposits is minimal," said Deputy Finance Minister Maureen Hinda.

According to Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform Minister Carl Schlettwein, "A good bank should provide a safe deposit for me to entrust my savings. Additionally, it should make affordable financing accessible to citizens. These two fundamentals are crucial in assessing whether our banking system is fair, reasonable, and affordable."

Escalating incidents of fraud, facilitated through banking institutions, the MPs say, have added salt to the wound.

"Individuals who fall victim to these scams are not provided with adequate support to recover their lost money. These scams involve a combination of insiders and outsiders gaining illegal access and using two bank accounts to make unauthorised withdrawals," said Schlettwein, warning that the current situation is far from secure, and banks need to own up and reimburse those who have lost their money in such a fashion.
Mbuende added her suspicions that "Some of these cases involve insider trading or access to inside information. Many people lose money from their e-wallets, and then someone miraculously acquires the funds. Although the bank may claim it is random, I find it unlikely that a fraudster would attempt every possible number until they discovered money linked to a specific phone number."

Other MPs, such as Vipakuje Muharukua of the PDM, opined that, whether keeping their money under the mattress or in the bank, citizens are losing out either way.

"The only difference between these two scenarios is that one robber might use a gun and you can see them, which is illegal. The other robber causes stress and operates within the bounds of the law, and you don't even realise when they have stolen from you. That's the reality of banking."



Serafia Nadunya