The vice presidentís challenge to the banks!

UDC election candidate Rev. Dr Prince Dibeela is reported as saying that we need to express outrage when matters go woefully wrong.

Presumably he is correct about this although looking back over the years, I note that it has only been in exceptional circumstances that people have reacted with outrage, if that is the correct word, as at  Bontleng and with Segametsi.  Normally most of us have long learned to live with almost everything that is wrong because we know that there is little hope of getting anyone to accept responsibility and to put it right.

  That said, I want once again to be an exception to that generalised norm because I am still really outraged that Stanbic, without a word of warning and certainly without later apology could have blocked access to my account. I recounted this sordid tale a couple of weeks ago. Since then, having provided Stanbic with two affidavits, it took this left handed bank three days to re-open my account. And since then there has been the annual Botswana Institute of Bankers Annual Dinner at which the Vice President, as guest speaker, remarked that, “there remains some aspects of customer service that need overhauling.  As indicated by the recent …… Customer Satisfaction Report for Africa, 8 out of the 14 countries surveyed considered ‘friendliness of staff and their willingness to assist’ to be the most important measure of customer care. 

This suggests that…..customers need to be made welcome and afforded a pleasant and efficient service. I therefore challenge banks to reflect a lot more on this matter and ensure immediate and continuous improvement”. In the circumstances, it has to be assumed that the Vice President was unaware of the total disinterest of a bank such as Stanbic regarding customer care. The bank’s action in arbitrarily closing my account made me aware for the first time that the old cosy days when bank managers really did care about their customers are gone for ever. And all of us need to be well aware that this is so.  In the last two weeks I have had the chance to meet and to hear from others who have also had their Stanbic accounts summarily blocked. 

And some  stories showed that banks today can do almost anything they like – and only court action has a chance of stopping them. One person found himself stranded in New York when Stanbic blocked his account. And there are bound to be others, long standing customers of Stanbic and other banks who have suddenly discovered that they have been targeted simply because, as foreigners, they have yet to produce a passport, or as locals, a certified Omang. Whilst those in the banking profession may no longer have any sense of customer care, they should have some awareness of the direct social and financial effects that this closure of customer accounts could mean. My previous outburst prompted no response from Stanbic, or any other Bank, from the Bank of Botswana or from the Banking Adjudicator.  So let me proceed with the scenario as I understand it. Sooner or later the Bank that closes someone’s account, without sensible explanation and warning, will find themselves being sued for many millions of Pula. And hopefully, will lose. I pose three possible scenarios – there could be many more. One:  An employer is suddenly unable to pay his staff. They are enraged and reject his pathetic excuses about his Bank. They beat him up.

Perhaps he dies. Two: A relative is taking seriously ill but cannot be admitted to a Private Hospital because, with an account suddenly blocked off, it is impossible to make the required down payments. That person dies. Three:  Someone is suddenly and unexpectedly stranded in another country. In desperate straights he/she goes to the High Commission/Embassy which, being uninformed and unaware of what is happening here, explains that it cannot help. That person commits suicide. Exaggeration? My belief now is that the action of Stanbic and other banks is illegal, unethical, and contrary to every possible worldwide banking standard to which it is supposedly committed. I am also convinced that the Bank’s action is undermining the Government’s attempts to support and encourage local businesses, locally or expatriate led, and is seriously damaging the business environment.

To me, it is now self evident, that the career leadership of the Bank is totally indifferent to the implications of what it is doing. I, therefore appeal to those who are Chairing the Boards of our now many commercial Banks, and to their share holders, to put a stop to this madness. Sooner or later there is going to be a personal tragedy which will have been the direct outcome of what it is now being done. Would that leave the Bank of Botswana implicated and involved? Rev Dr Prince Dibeela. Over to you. Here is very real outrage.

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