Wits students approached Vuvuzela for help after receiving what they say is bad service aimed at students from mainly African countries.

Hlalele Hlalele, a master’s student from Lesotho, visited the bank last month to change accounts. He was asked for his passport but did not have it with him, so presented his Southern African Development Community (SADC) driver’s licence instead.

He says the bank declined to give him service because the driver’s licence was not issued in South Africa. He explained that although it was issued by the Lesotho government, it was a SADC-recognised document.

He says he found it odd the Matrix branch refused to help him because he was able to open his account with the same document in the Free State.

“I opened my account in October at the Ladybrand branch without the study permit or the work permit, but using just this document…Surely something is fishy here.”

Joyce Legoale, FNB relationship analyst and the person running the branch, says she does not believe Hlalele managed to open the account in Ladybrand. She promised Hlalele she would check with the branch.

“I know I was supposed to follow up, but I did not. I do apologise. He can come back, we will help.”

Vivian Chuchu, a Zimbabwean doing her masters, says she went to the branch in February to open an account with her study permit. She was told it could not be used because it was handwritten, and only typed permits were allowed. She was told a copy would be made and sent to the department of home affairs head office in Pretoria for verification.

“This is such an inconvenience. Nobody at FNB has come back to me after all this time. But I managed to open an account at Absa using the same document.”

Wezi Shaba a sociology master’s student from Malawi, says he visited the branch in February to open an account. He says it was eventually opened but the process was unnecessarily fussy.

He did not have his study permit, but had his passport and visa. The bank asked him to bring a letter from the sociology department proving he is a student. He brought back the letter, which had his student number, passport number and residential address.

The bank did not accept the letter because they said, even though the content was fine, the structure of the letter was not acceptable.

“I think this was a tactic to make me discouraged and give up on opening the account,” he says.

FNB head office was contacted for comment, but did not respond.