What If the South African Courts Were Right in Confiscating Baba Danpullo’s Assets
I might have still been in the Junior Secondary School in Fundong in the Boyo Division of the North West Region of Cameroon in the 80s, but I knew virtually every well-to-do businessman in that community. One of such was a certain Pa Dominic, a popular bar owner of Bali extraction who had settled in Fundong in the seventies. No civil servant nor any person of mettle in Fundong then would be said to have had a well-spent day if s/he didn’t take a drink in Pa Dominic’s bar, situated off the jaws of Fundong Grandstand.
Pa Dominic had made a good fortune in Fundong and in turn, decided to expand his bar and soya roasting business to real estate development. With his good standing in the lone vibrant micro-finance institution, the Fundong Credit Union, where most businessmen and civil servants in the Boyo Divisional capital served their money, and with his friendly connection to the management, he took a huge loan and invested in real estate adjacent the Fundong Government Primary School, GSS Fundong. His businesses continued to flourish, especially as indigenes took the lead in patronizing him.
He was the talk of the town and many appreciated the fact that he could leave his native Bali, by-pass Bamenda, and choose to settle in distant Fundong, despite the rugged nature of the road by then. Equally, I had a good number of friends and acquaintances who were renting some of Pa Dominic’s apartments.
One day, I stopped by to check on one of my good friends only to see a Fundong Credit Union board, conspicuously planted next to the wall of the real estate with the bold inscriptions: “This is the property of the Fundong Credit Union”. On enquiring from my friend how a property everyone in Fundong had known to belong to Pa Dominick had suddenly become that of Fundong Credit Union, he told me how they as tenants were also embarrassed when Fundong Credit Union management informed them of the change of ownership.
Upon further inquiry, I was told that Pa Dominick had taken a huge loan for his businesses from the Fundong Credit Union, with his estates in Fundong as collateral. As he started defaulting on repayments because of a slum in his business activities, the Fundong Credit Union took the matter before the Fundong Magistrate’s Court.
After a series of failed reconciliation attempts and after a chain of adjustments, the court finally granted the prayer of the Fundong Credit Union. Pa Dominick started running into one difficulty after another until he folded up in Fundong and quietly went away to start a new life elsewhere. Although he knew for a fact that there were equally kom flourishing businesses in his Mezam Division where he could go back and whip up “patriotism” sentiments and claim with effortless ease, his conscience informed him that Fundong had given more to him than he would want to take.
Pa Dominick’s case and the Fundong Credit Union incident might have seemed an isolated scenario then, but more frequently in the towns and cities of Cameroon we come across instances where Credit Unions and banks confiscate individuals’ properties for loan repayment defaults. At times, even empty plots are seized and cautioned to recover the loans. Those working in loan departments of micro-finance institutions narrate myriads of sorry stories and threats they come across in the loan recovery process. They would tell you how meek and gentle borrowers appear when they are still negotiating the loan and how “bestial” they become when creditors pressurize them to honor their engagements. At times some go personal with members of the loan recovery board, confronting them with machetes and threatening hell if they ever pass around the vicinity of their property. In the process, some debtors or borrowers go away with the situation, and the micro-finance institutions and banks write them off as bad loans.
Yet, the thrifts and loans community seems to be the one world there is no room for sentiments. Just