Sunday, October 25, 2020

Money disappears in the hands of Western Union

Almost six months after it was wired at a Western Union office in Gaborone, a Ugandan pastor’s money has yet to reach the intended recipient. Although a company official admitted that they had “let down” the pastor, Grace Batangi, she also indicated that she would not be refunded.

“I really wish I could have been the bearer of good news, but like I said earlier these matters are out of my hands. I am sorry that things have turned out this way. You trusted us with your money and we let you down,” writes Opelo Mogatusi, a Western Union official in a letter to Batangi.

The Sunday Standard sought Western Union’s side of the story but Mogatusi, who handled Batangi’s case, says that she is not authorised to speak to the press. She has said that she had referred the matter to the company’s office in Belgium who, at a later stage, would get back to us.

If Batangi’s case is any indication of how long it takes for that office to deal with queries, it would be some time before the Belgians respond. Batangi lodged her complaint in June and it was only last month that she learnt through the local Western Union office that she would not be refunded.

Around this time she was in Uganda and was notified through an e-mail message: “I have been informed that you will not be given your money back. Western Union says that they feel that they cannot refund your money because according to them all the payout procedures were followed.”

Batangi was visiting church friends in Botswana in June when she wired P1299.96 (300 000 Ugandan shillings) at the Western Union agency in Molapo Crossing mall and called the designated recipient to give him transaction details. The money was encashed by somebody else other than the intended recipient and the address of the person who collected the money was different to that Batangi had written on the transaction form. All this happened on June 9 which is a public holiday (Heroes’ Day) in Uganda.
In one of her letters to Batangi, Mogatusi says that the money was collected by someone using an identity card issued by Kayunga Full Gospel Church. Batangi’s counters that while some Ugandan churches issue IDs for their members, such documents are subject to validation “since there are also fake ones”.

A religious person, Batangi naturally hopes for divine intervention (“God will judge this matter in His justice and woe unto the culprits”) but before that happens she has to deal with the pastor who lent her the money so that she could make the trip to Botswana. The other pastor, Batangi says, feels let down for his charitable act, especially that the former cannot raise the money to pay back the loan.

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