Gawa Cooperative members from Gokwe South in Hwenya Village are struggling to come to terms with the Inclusive Financial Institute move to blacklist their names at the Financial Clearance Bureau despite having paid the full payment of the loan that they had received.
The Gawa Cooperative crew started projects that would help them evade the harsh economic situation in the country. They decided to contribute money towards the purchase of the tractor, however their contributions were not enough prompting them them to apply for a loan at Inclusive Financial Institute in Bulawayo. Tinashe (not his real name) who is part of the cooperative spoke with this publication and narrated the situation.
“The Cooperative is known as Gawa Cooperative. It has a membership 118 people comprising 60 women, 40 men and 18youths. At inception, the intention was to conduct projects that could help the Gawa community. They started raising funds with an intention to buy a tractor to help them in farming. So their money was not enough and they decided to apply for a loan of US$6000 with Inclusive Financial Institute in Bulawayo. Fortunately they succeeded and received the money. They started paying back in instalments. However, there was a time they defaulted paying by the stated time because of financial struggles from 2017 but managed to pay the full amount in March this year. Unfortunately due to illiteracy on the majority of them they kept on paying until the amount totaled US$20 000 from the US$6 000 and evidence is there to prove that they paid up to US$20 000.
“The problem now is that we had to force the institute to provide us a receipt showing that we had paid the full amount so that they do not keep increasing the figures each time. We had a situation where every time we pay some amount the next time the figure would be up again. When they told us to pay the last $12 000 we paid and asked for a receipt acknowledging that we had paid in full and that we were done with our credit to them. After this last installment, we were utterly surprised when we received communication to the effect that we still owed them? Then they said each member of the cooperative is supposed to pay $100 as recovery fee for late payment. Added to that, we were to pay $30 to clear our names at the FCB bank plus the $10 for sending emails from Inclusive to the FCB bank. So the total is $140 per person for the 118 members. From the $6 000 that we were supposed to pay we have now paid close to $20 000 and if we add the $140 per person figure we will end up paying around $30 000 just imagine.
“I think they are taking advantage of us knowing fully well that our literacy level is low. So they are taking advantage of that so that they keep getting more money from us. The challenge now is there is nowhere that as members we can gather the money from. Some who have received their money from GMB are not able to collect it from the bank due to the fact that we have all been blacklisted by the FCB,” he said.
Community Voices Zimbabwe understands that the Cooperative once approached Head of Financial Institute at Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe; Mrs Mushosho who promised to look into the issue and guide them accordingly, but to date nothing has materialized. The group feel that their membership is being taken advantage of because of their weak appreciation of financial issues and the policies thereof.
In a telephone conversation that was heard by this reporter Gerald Ndhlovu from Inclusive explained the issue of recovery fees to one of the Gawa cooperative members.
“The whole group of 118 people are bad debtors. They did not pay their loans in time so they are all supposed to pay recovery fees of US$100 each to Inclusive. However, the group has come and said we are Gawa group, we are a group of farmers so the US$100 is too stiff for them. So Inclusive has said for the group if all the people are paying we are prepared to reduce our charges to US$35, so the reduction is for the group, it is not for individuals. If you are coming as an individual you pay US$100. If you encourage all bad debtors you will pay US$35 because we will be now looking at it as a group,” he said.
A former Inclusive employee who spoke on condition of anonymity advised the cooperative to do their best in contributing the funds needed to pay back the money and clear their names from the blacklist.
“Inclusive has a tendency of blacklisting clients if they spend some days without paying the loan. For the cooperative to look for a loan at Inclusive was a huge mistake and had they known they should have should have approached another institution. I think the best the group can do now is to try their best and pay the required amount so that they can be cleared from the blacklist otherwise it will be difficult for the farmers to operate well while they are blacklisted. So I think they should just try and pay because Gerald is holding the keys at the moment and if they do not pay I do not see them getting cleared from the blacklist,” said the source.
The Gawa cooperative are in a dire situation because they have no other means of raising the funds to pay the needed sum.
“At the moment the situation is tough for us, we cannot manage to raise the money that they need. We are stranded and we do not know what to do or who to approach. RBZ was our hope but since they are not responding to us it makes it even harder for us. Sometimes I think of selling my chickens but still it is a challenge because the money will be very little maybe I will have to sell two goats in order to raise the required amount,” said one member of the cooperative who pleaded for anonymity.
The Gawa cooperative group is seeking assistance from well-wishers to help end the struggle that they are in.The group is dominated by women who cannot afford to get the money that is needed. For those who wish to help please contact the Chairperson of the cooperative Mrs Marega on +263718181200.