Dar es Salaam. Members of a village community bank (Vicoba) in Dar es Salaam have lost over Sh48 million in the latest incident of theft of Vicoba funds.
One member of Migombani Vicoba in the city’s Segerea area is said to have lost a cool Sh25 million in questionable circumstances earlier this month.
The Migombani Vicoba incident is part of a pattern where members’ hard-earned savings are either stolen or swindled by a few unscrupulous individuals, including their fellow members.
A few years ago, 90 members of Ushindi Vicoba in Segerea, after saving for years, suddenly found themselves without a single cent after the group purportedly lost Sh100 million in an armed robbery.
The narration was that several armed gangsters walked into the home of a member, grabbed the cash before escaping on four motorcycles under the cover darkness. The money had been withdrawn from a bank several hours earlier and was meant to be issued out as loans to members the following day.
On September 2 it was the turn of Migombani Vicoba members to lose their savings in dubious circumstances, with one member losing all of the Sh25 million she had saved for about three years.
The victim, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said her plan was to buy a vehicle which she intended to use to transport farm produce from Iringa to Dar es Salaam.
On that particular day, members were to share among themselves Sh48 million, but “thieves” apparently had other ideas. The explanation offered is that “unidentified people” broke into the home of a group official at dawn and walked out with three boxes stuffed with cash.
“I had applied to be given Sh15 million of my savings. I was to pay for the vehicle which I had already ordered. I’m devastated...I don’t know what to do,” she said.
She added that members had been assured that their money was in the bank, but little did they know that it was kept in the house of a senior official.
Police confirmed to The Citizen yesterday that they had questioned three people, including the group’s treasurer, in connection with the “stolen” cash.
“An investigations is currently underway. We are seeking to establish what really happened. We urge members to be patient,” Ilala Regional Police Commander Salum Hamduni said by telephone.
Some members said it seemed that the purported thieves had acted “very professionally” since there was no sign of a break-in at the group official’s home where the money was kept.
Mr Riziki Javike, the managing director of Pamoja Entrepreneurship Support for Community Development, which supervises Migombani Vicoba, said he was surprised that such a “huge” sum was kept in an insecure environment.
“This is a surprise. We expect such groups to operate bank accounts, and this is something we have been emphasizing all along,” he said, adding that they hoped those responsible would be brought to justice.