Friday, September 16, 2011

Sale of FBZ saddens Mahtani

Sale of FBZ saddens Mahtani
By Amos Malupenga
Fri 16 Sep. 2011, 13:55 CAT

DR Rajan Mahtani yesterday said he is saddened to read about the government's sale of Finance Bank, the bank he struggled to build for over 20 years with other stakeholders.

And Finance Bank Zambia (FBZ) employees have expressed displeasure at the bank's new owner, South Africa's First National Bank (FNB), decision to force them to resign and re-apply for jobs without getting their redundancy packages for the many years they worked.

In an interview from Johannesburg where he has been recuperating after undergoing open-heart surgery over a month ago, Dr Mahtani, a former Finance Bank executive chairman, said he had decided to return home against the doctors' advice because he wants to continue his legal battles and prove his innocence. He said no matter how long it would take, the truth about Finance Bank will eventually come out.

"Contrary to the advice of the physicians and specialists who insist on my recuperating for eight weeks after surgery in Johannesburg, I have decided to return to Zambia and recuperate at home instead (in the fervent prayer that there would be no complications)," Dr Mahtani said.

"This will give me the opportunity of continuing the legal battles to prove my innocence to the many allegations made against me and to regain my integrity and dignity. I believe in the rule of law in Zambia and the judiciary's ability to maintain the highest ethics in the legal profession.

"I am indeed saddened to read about the sale of Finance Bank Zambia Limited which took twenty three years to establish through the hard work and dedication of all stakeholders and the employees who built a Zambian institution of pride and to whom I salute with gratitude. These matters are in court and since that makes it subjudice, I will refrain from expressing my sentiments except to assure my colleagues that ‘truth and justice will finally prevail' and that is a Biblical principle."

Dr Mahtani said he was grateful for the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, the government of Zambia, the churches, the staff at Care for Business in Lusaka and the University Teaching Hospital, all friends and family for the support, prayers, and kindness during his ordeal of a major cardiac open heart surgery.

The surgery consisted of a quintuple coronary artery by pass grafting following his heart attack in Zambia.

"It is sad that this medical condition could have been avoided had I been allowed to seek medical reviews on a regular basis," Dr Mahtani, who was expected in Lusaka last evening, said. And over 1,000 FBZ employees are affected without government's intervention forthcoming.

According to sources at the bank, FNB officials addressed the workers on Wednesday where they told the workers to resign.

"FNB announced during a meeting at Mulungushi International Conference in Lusaka that the only way they could accept to employ us under FNB was if we could write letters to resign our positions under Finance Bank," the source said.

"But workers feel aggrieved because most of them had no plans of resigning, perhaps throughout their work career. It's very unfair for First National Bank to run away from its obligations of paying us our benefits. This situation was not caused by the workers, so there is no way we can lose our benefits which we have worked for, for as long as Finance Bank has been in existence. Some of us have worked for up to 20 years."

The sources said the government had not disclosed the details of the sale of FBZ to FNB and how it would affect the workers.

The sources said the government had not even met the workers to address their problems, particularly the resignation and reapplication process.

"According to a bit of knowledge we have is that labour laws in Zambia do not allow someone to move from one employment to another, like it is happening with FBZ and FNB, without the involvement of the union and the labour commissioner," the sources said.

"Workers don't even know their future under this circumstance. We need to understand the nature of transaction and how it affects us. FNB asked the workers to resign and accept new employment. But the workers are asking, ‘what about the years we have worked? Where are our benefits?' Let FNB declare us redundant or put us on early retirement and then pay us our money after which we decide whether to take up the job offers they are giving us or not."

The sources said FNB was only ready to pay leave days to workers, which was unfair to the employees.

"They are asking us to resign from an organisation that had conditions of services and that we should join an organisation without a signed collective agreement…no signed conditions of services, it's like verbal agreement."

The sources explained that throughout the period, December 2010 to date, workers had not been given a salary increment because the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) refused to do so under the pretext that the FBZ was under repossession.

BoZ this week announced the sale of FBZ to FNB for about K27 billion.

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