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Thom Mpinganjira defends MSB buy

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Civil Society bodies have said they will use any means necessary to reverse the process of selling the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB).

Government through the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe on Thursday signed sale agreements with FDH Holdings Limited to buy 75 percent shares in the MSB bank at K9.5 billion.

The Minister also signed another agreement with National Bank of Malawi (NBM) for shares in IndeBank. Thom Mpinganjira signed on behalf of FDH Holdings as its chairperson while George Partridge signed on behalf of NBM.

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However, on the sale of MSB civil rights activist Billy Mayaya said they will not allow the sale to proceed, saying they will use any means necessary to reverse that process.

“In a democracy, power lies with the people and the people have the power to demand answers from government, if this Parliament which is the representative of the people has said they don’t want the bank to be sold and therefore we are wondering why one single branch of government should go ahead with the process of selling the bank,” Mayaya said.

Mayaya’s sentiments were shared by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director Timothy Mtambo who blamed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party for selling the MSB to what he called its cohorts against the wish of the majority of citizens and various stakeholders.

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Mtambo alleged that President Peter Mutharika and his government have vested interests in the sale.

“They went ahead, constituted a staged, so called consultation forum, which was dominated by their sympathisers and fans, and never invited us for reasons better known to themselves. Now they have finally done what they are good at, which is manipulative politics,” he said.

However, Mpinganjira said the entire process of the sale of the bank was governed by laws which were enacted by Parliament.

“And as far as I know those laws have not been changed yet they are still the same laws that were approved by Parliament under the PPPC Act as well as Registrar of Financial Institutions Act,” he said.

Mpinganjira explained that when they were invited to obtain the bid document by the PPPC, there were over 30 bidders all of whom were given information memorandum and on the basis of this memorandum they submitted their bid.

“In that document which is over 200 pages, by the way, we specified what we were going to do under each category,” he said.

He also said from what he is aware of, the Malawi Savings Bank is going to continue trading the way it has been trading.

“Tomorrow you will still have Mr. Ian Bonongwe and his managers there; they will continue to trade. Over time there are undertakings that we have made to the PPPC and that’s what we will be required to do. We will be required to comply with the laws of Malawi in line with the signed agreement,” he said.

He said in the signed agreement and in everything that they have been doing there is nothing about civil society. He said all the information that the people have been complaining about is available in the 200 page document but it is the prerogative of the PPPC to release that information because they are not regulators and it is not their job to go out and tell the people.

“Is anybody serious that we can put in K9.5 billion in MSB and then close down the branches and fire all the employees? What are we going to benefit from this money? So I think a bit of common sense should help people to understand that we are going there to preserve the bank and the network and the infrastructure because that is the only way in which we are going to expand and compete with big banks like National Bank and Standard Bank,” he argued.

He also bashed sentiments that the bank has gone for a song: “I should know better because I am an accountant by training. I spent five years at the University of Malawi studying accounting and valuations we do from first year. I am a chartered accountant that means I spent three to four years studying UK chartered accounting and I have worked in audit and I have worked in private sector and we have bought and sold shares as FDH.

“If you are not an expert don’t get involved. Valuation is something that takes years to understand. Now I am surprised that there are people that are masquerading as experts,” he said.

He said people must understand that the balance sheet of a bank is made up of the monies that belong to the shareholders and depositors.

“Now MSB had K4.9 bn that belonged to shareholders-government. And the K50 billion or K60 billion that so called experts have been talking about, are talking about your money, your deposits. Now do those deposits belong to government shareholder or the money in the streets. We are not buying deposits because they disappear every day,” he said.

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