Deliver us from 'a debtor life for all'

30 November 2017 - 07:16 By THE TIMES EDITORIAL
Image: 123RF/Michael Thompson

With the spending frenzies dubbed "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" behind us for another year, and another known as "Christmas" just around the corner, it's an appropriate time to reflect on household debt.

Statistics from organisations such as the National Credit Regulator and the Debt Counsellors' Association paint an alarming picture.

Consumer debt stands at around R31000 for every man, woman and child, meaning nearly two-thirds of all disposable income is used for repayments.

As is so often the case when it comes to the hardships borne by South Africans, the burden falls largely on the shoulders of the poor, the jobless and others without the means to resist when lenders advance money recklessly then seek to get it back rapaciously.

The National Credit Act was designed to deal with this issue, among others, but 12 years after it became law its shortcomings have become apparent in the nightmares of almost 10 million people officially classified as over-indebted.

This is why proposed amendments to the act, which will make credit insurance mandatory and extend the law's protection to those with debts of less than R50000, have attracted the support of all political parties.

Saving millions of people from the predations of excessive debt is a worthwhile project, of course, but with less than three weeks until the ANC elective conference that will seal South Africa's fate one way or the other for at least a decade, it's also an apt time to reflect on an even more fundamental need.

People would be better equipped to make sustainable financial decisions and resist unscrupulous lenders if the ANC had not made a mockery of its own electoral slogan - "A better life for all" - with an approach to governance which has instead delivered a debtor life for all.