DN International, one of the many real estate development companies in the country, is in the news for the all the wrong reasons. Not for providing good, affordable housing as it should but rather for fleecing its customers. The gist of the story is this: DN International got a Rwf 848m loan from Fina Bank and then used the money to construct 19 housing units in Masaka, on the outskirts of Kigali. The deal that real estate developer and the bank struck was that the bank loan would be repaid after each unit was sold at Rwf 55m. Things got a bit fishy when customers paid for the uncompleted houses and didn’t get titles for their houses and got fishier still when DN International didn’t use the money they received from the clients to repay its loan. Well, as it is the banks right, it will auction the houses on November 18.
To say that the homeowners (at least that’s what they thought they were) are incensed is an understatement. They are guilty of nothing except perhaps paying for the houses a tad bit early. I, however, have an issue with the manner in which they are seeking redress. Some of the DN International clients are talking about seeking President Paul Kagame’s intervention in this matter: hoping that His Excellency will halt the auction. Their desperate appeal to the Head of State, while understandable, is not right and sends the wrong message. What they are asking is that the President halts a totally legal act; in other words, they are asking him to go against his oath of office, where he promises to protect the Constitution. But even if they weren’t asking him to do anything patently illegal I would still be against it.
To call our President exemplary would be an understatement. He’s on top of so many things that I get a headache just thinking about all the work he does. Throw in a tweet or two (he’s on the social media platform Twitter as much as I am, and I got time to burn) and what we are seeing in action is nothing less than herculean effort. But just because the man has energy in spades, doesn’t mean that people should take it for granted. And honestly, the Masaka homeowners are asking for too much.
The DN International-Fina Bank-home buyers debacle is a private sector issue and I cannot fathom why the State should involve itself in it. And what bothers me the most is that the 19 clients have a way to redress their issue; the solution is called a ‘court house’. Instead of running around like headless chickens, talking to the Ombudsman and what not, they should seek a court decision halting the auction until the matter is solved, either through mediation or court ruling. It’s as simple as that.
I think that their appeal for the President’s aid is a symptom of a disease that Africa has, the “Big Man Syndrome’. For too long, citizens have assumed that their problems could only be solved by the man at the top and no one else. This was probably because the top dogs wanted to be the ‘system’ itself. It made the electorate directly dependent on them, not the state, to provide services and what not. But this isnt what Rwanda is about now.
The President has said, on countless occasions, that he’s more interested in building institutions that work for each and every citizen. These institutions will not provide services because someone is influential or related to the right people, but rather because a tax payer has demanded this service. While it might be difficult to change this mentality, maybe what we should do is to test our institutions and see if they stand up to the challenge. I feel quite confident that they can.