R1‚000 loan balloons to R13‚000 - Money lender now controls woman’s bank account‚ wages and children’s grants

15 February 2017 - 12:04 By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Primrose Ntuthu borrowed R1‚000 from a money lender in January 2015. Two years later the loan has grown to R13‚000.

Ntuthu‚ who is 42 and lives in Mdantsane NU1‚ East London‚ is living without her identification book‚ bank card and South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) card. They were taken by the money lender‚ a woman she only knows as Bukelwa.

In September 2015‚ the security company Ntuthu worked for as a guard lost a contract‚ and she and other employees were told to go home. They would be called when there was work again.

Ntuthu‚ with two boys‚ aged nine and 15‚ became dependent on R660 in child support grants.

“I would spend close to R100 from home to town a day‚ looking for a job‚ and the grant money was now not enough for food and for my transport‚” said Ntuthu.

By December‚ “I was panicking‚” says Ntuthu. “My elder son was going to start high school in January.” A friend told her about a woman called Bukelwa in NU3‚ who could extend a loan to her. When Ntuthu first called Bukelwa‚ a man answered and told her that she would be picked up at the Highway shopping centre. He took her to Bukelwa’s house.

“I borrowed R1‚000 from her and she said the interest was 30% [per month]. She said I must give her my bank card‚ SASSA card‚ write down my pin numbers and give her my ID.

“At first I refused … but … I needed the money‚” says Ntuthu. “I could not let my son start high school with no uniform‚ and I had to pay the once off registration fee.”

Bukelwa said Ntuthu had to deal with her business partner‚ Thabo.

“Thabo was a sweet talker; he even told me that if I do not have all his money‚ then I can just pay him R300 instalment each month. I understood he meant that I would pay him R300 every month‚ until I finished my debt. But I was wrong‚” says Ntuthu.

After the first month‚ Ntuthu went to Thabo’s house to ask for her SASSA card‚ but Thabo had already collected her money from SASSA.

A week later‚ she borrowed R500 from her sister to give to Thabo. She called Thabo to collect it. “When he got here‚ he took out a black book‚ and took the R500‚” she says.

Ntuthu struggled to pay off her loan.

Thabo changed the interest to 40% to be in line with the other mashonisas [money lenders]‚ he said.

The numbers didn’t add up. He told her that there would be extra charges‚ because she didn’t pay back the amount they had agreed on.

“The loan kept on growing. I had to pay and borrow at the same time‚” she said. After ten months‚ Ntuthu received a call from her previous employer‚ and she started working again in July 2016‚ four days a week‚ earning R3‚500 per month.

“I can’t apply for a new [bank] card because I don’t have an ID. I tried to apply for a new one with no luck‚” she says.

According to Ntuthu‚ Thabo now controls her money. He takes R1‚500 from her salary on her bank card; then R300 to R350 from her SASSA account.

Thabo decides how much is owed to him and what is left for her. If she is short‚ she has to borrow from him and pay the interest.

Ntuthu has not gone to the police. She fears for her safety and that of her family.

GroundUp tried to meet Bukelwa and Thabo at Mdantsane City. Unfortunately‚ our journalist was recognised. Since last week‚ GroundUp has made numerous attempts to get comment from the National Credit Regulator without success.

  • This article was originally published via GroundUp.