From broke to bank to broke again: Meet the South Africans who blew their windfalls

07 October 2018 - 00:00 By LEONIE WAGNER
Nonhlanhla bought a minibus, among other things, with her accident payout.
Nonhlanhla bought a minibus, among other things, with her accident payout.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

A Brits tyre-maker who played the Lotto religiously spent R500 over two years, hoping his luck would change.

One Saturday in 2008 he hit the jackpot, netting R1.8m.

And then it took him just four years to run through the money.

His priority when he won was to build his mother a house, which cost him almost R800,000.

He bought himself new clothes, a cellphone and four vehicles - a second-hand Toyota Corolla for R40,000, a bakkie, a minibus and a Golf GTI.

Today, all that remains is the home he built for his mom.

He totalled two cars in accidents and, unable to afford the maintenance on the minibus and the Golf GTI, sold them.

Now the unemployed father of four lives with his mother and relies on money from family and friends to get by.

I learnt that I should've listened to the financial advisers and invested the money
Thabo

The man - known only by his first name, Thabo, to "protect his privacy", according to the producers of the TV series in which he features - doesn't play the Lotto anymore.

"I learnt that I should've listened to the financial advisers and invested the money. I invested some of the money but then withdrew it after a year. With more money comes a nice life. I enjoyed it but now it's hard. Life is harder now because I know what it's like to have that kind of money," he said.

His story is told in the series I Blew It, which premiered on DStv Saturday night. It tracks the fortunes of people who come into money by chance, an inheritance or payout.

For Nonhlanhla, a car accident changed her life. She went from a R3,000 monthly salary to splurging on designer sneakers and becoming the local micro lender thanks to a payout from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

A car accident in 2013 left her with severe back pain, constant headaches and injuries to both hands. Four years after her accident, she received a R1m payout from the fund and the first thing she did was quit her job, believing she could live off her payout.

"You think it's not going to finish. It took me eight months and then I realised I suddenly didn't have as much money left," the single mother said.

She spent R60,000 renovating her grandmother's house, took her relatives on weekly shopping sprees, bought a used minibus for about R150,000, and splurged on sports bags, clothes and sneakers.

She also became the neighbourhood lender, loaning close to R10,000 - money she says she is still owed to this day.

"Everyone was calling me about their problems and wanted to borrow money, it wasn't long before I had what we call ghost money, you have it but you don't know what happens to it.

Thabo built his mother a house worth close to R800,000 and bought himself four cars with his Lotto winnings.
Thabo built his mother a house worth close to R800,000 and bought himself four cars with his Lotto winnings.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

"Last year was so rough. I thought I had everything, then I realised R1m is like R10,000, it's nothing. I regret getting the money," she said.

In addition, blinded by love, she said, she splurged on her beau - who she later broke up with - buying R4,000 rims for his car and pimping the sound system for R10,000.

"I wasn't thinking straight and now I have a lot of regrets. If someone asks me for advice, I'll tell them to invest the money, forget about boys and live your life like you used to, don't change," she said.

Perhaps her biggest regret is quitting her job as a sales agent at a call centre.

She has less than R200,000 left in her bank account. Her mother and brother run a transport business using the minibus she bought.

Someone else who blew his money on the good life - parties, expensive alcohol and gold jewellery - is Harold from Limpopo.

Initially he had the right idea when he received R1m from his late mother's life insurance policies.

I wasn't thinking straight and now I have a lot of regrets. If someone asks me for advice, I'll tell them to invest the money, forget about boys and live your life like you used to, don't change
Nonhlanhla

He used R270,000 to build four rooms on his property, to rent out for additional income.

Then he dropped R40,000 on a Volkswagen Golf VeloCiti, bought a cupboard full of new clothes and succumbed to his penchant for gold with a bracelet and four rings worth R17,000.

His flashy lifestyle attracted a new group of friends and his days - and funds - were spent entertaining them.

Soon the money ran out.

"I suddenly had friends that were never my friends, people just wanted money to drink," he said.

"There was also a lot of peer pressure, people were tormenting me. I had to withdraw money to show them that I had money. I learnt that friends are like flies, whenever there's nothing to eat, you won't see a lot of flies, but when there's food, you'll see the flies and you won't have to invite them," he said.

The unemployed father of three now lives on R4,700 a month - the rent from the rooms he built.

Independent financial adviser Philip Malan said a lot of people who come into money they have not worked for get advice from the wrong people.

Winning anything less than R4m is "small change", said Malan, because that amount is not enough to sustain anyone.

"It's OK to buy a decent house or a decent car, but my advice is never stop working. Your biggest asset is the ability to generate an income," Malan said.

M-Net's PR manager of local entertainment channels, Ryan van Heerden, said the show tackles some important sociological questions around financial windfalls.

"The show will document the psychological journey ordinary South Africans go through when suddenly given a large sum of money," he said.

"The subject matter of the show is highly intriguing while remaining entertaining. Viewers can see and learn from the mistakes of the participants, without experiencing their turmoil."

I Blew It aires on Mzansi Wethu every Saturday at 7.30pm.


X