When I walked into the banking hall of National Bank – Mzuzu Service Centre – last week Friday, it was just a few minutes after lunch – around 12:16 after mid-day. I joined a troop of men and women and professionals and non-professionals all wanting to do this transaction and the other.
Apparently, an uncle of mine had sent me some money for my school errands and I had hastily rushed to the bank to withdraw. It was not a lot of money; that is, if I am to compare with the figures others, in front or behind me, were dealing with.
I had come to collect just K20 000.
But there was a problem. No. Let me say, I had a problem. I did not have a ‘valid’ identity card with me, and, therefore, there was no way I was going to withdraw any money from my savings account; a bank teller of medium height clad in a cream white shirt and a matching tie told be matter-of-factly.
That was after I had surrendered an official introduction letter from my school – Mzuzu University – duly signed and stamped by the Office of the Dean of Students.
I lost my wallet, I told him, in which all my cards were, including the ATM card.
Noticing my exasperation, and perhaps reading from my face and realizing how desperate I was in getting the money, the teller – one Dominic – referred me to the service center’s savings department, saying he would be in a position to help me if only they were able to identify me and give me a ‘go ahead’ with the transaction.
I did not argue. For two reasons. Firstly, it was because the teller was very right in not helping me because I did not have a ‘valid’ identity card as per the bank’s rules. He was protecting his job. The second reason I did not argue was his proposition that I go to the savings department. His suggestion, actually, had cooled down my heart like what cold water does to a worn-out journeying man.
I was sure they were going to easily identify me considering the fact that I have been a customer for about three years now, and for the fact that during the time I was opening the savings account with them, they had taken photos of me which they said, at the time, they would keep in their system for easy identification.
So, I walked across the banking hall to my far-right. On the counter that was empty was a young lady probably in her late twenties, with a smile so sumptuous. But I was in no smiling mood.
I wanted to have my money.
After stating my case, and showing her the letter of introduction and what the teller had advised, she walked towards her boss’ desk just behind her – apparently, her head in the savings department.
She came back with bad news for me. I had to go to the police station to report the loss of my wallet and the cards and then come back to the bank for help.
Are you not on MO626, she asked. No, I answered briefly. I was furious. It was way after one o’clock in the afternoon now.
Kindly enough, the police officer I met in the investigative department of Mzuzu Police Station was gentleman enough. He did not take long to understand my problem, and in the shortest period processed a report for me.
But when I got back to the back, I was faced with more problems. The same lady teller who had instructed me with the bank thing was still seated right behind her counter. She remembered me as I walked closer and without exchanging even a single word she got the documents I handed her and walked to her boss.
It was not her talking to me again as I expected. It was now her boss. He told me outright that even with the police report I could not get the money because it too was not a valid document for me to withdraw cash.
But wait a minute, there was an official stamp there from the police, and duly signed.
I asked what next then since I had told them I did not have an ATM card or any ID because I had lost them accidentally. I’d told him also that I had applied for a new card at my school and I could not get one until after one or two weeks. I needed the money but, I said staunchly.
But, like someone who had never gone to school for his job, he simply stared – blank.
Frustrated, I walked up the hall to the account relations manager suit who, surprisingly, did not take time to understand my predicament. A Mr. Chiumia, for that was his name, simply asked for the documents I had, punched a few keys on his laptop, called my Dean of Students for confirmation and then asked me to follow him.
In less than ten minutes, we were in the premium banking suite where I was given my money – K20 000 –, my own money after so much a struggle.
Ever since I left the bank that Friday, I have always probed myself with questions on why we must be slaves for banking with our banks. Why should a bank fail to identify their own customers? What is the use of the so many sample signatures they ask us to provide? What is the use of the photos they get when we open the accounts?
When I talked to a few hostel mates, they told me similar situations. It is actually not just National Bank. The other banks do it also.
A colleague told me that his bank, Standard Bank, had told him to wait for at least a week to get back a mere K5 000. Apparently, he had used his visa card to get the money from an NBS Bank ATM facility which had debited his account, but the ATM had not released the money. So, this colleague had to wait for over a week to have his money back. What a shame about the efficiency of our banks!
It is folly to save with Malawian banks. Sure it is!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :