Finding yourself in debt can be a very frightening experience, particularly if you are not completely financially literate. Not being able to afford the pleasantries and luxuries of life is one thing, and we all feel this stress more keenly at Christmas time. However, not being able to purchase basic necessities, like food and clothing, or not being able to keep up with rent payments is not only scary but can also be detrimental to your health, both physical and mental,
The worst thing you can do if you find yourself in debt is to panic. If you have no family or friends that you can approach to help or offer advice, it’s all too easy to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. By this, we mean doing something silly like borrowing money from loan sharks.
Loan sharks are thriving in South Africa
According to a recent report on Businesstech, there are many more loan sharks in existence than was previously thought to be the case. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 of these operations in business now all across South Africa.
Mashonisas, as these loan sharks are nationally known across South Africa, are illegal and unregulated. They don’t follow the rules and regulation issued by the National Credit Act, and this is where the danger lies. You can find yourself subjected to enormous pressure if you cannot make repayments in time, and in some cases, this pressure can turn into physical violence.
Part of the social fabric
Despite that popular conception that loan sharks are all violent crooks, some of them are not. They are in actual fact an established and accepted part of the South African social structure. This is because it is far easier to get loans from these illegal sources that it is from regulated sources such as Banks and NCR approved finance houses.
But nonetheless, these illegal sharks are dubious people who should be avoided where possible. They charge high interest rates, use unsavoury tactics such as taking people’s ID cards and bank cards as security on otherwise unsecured loans, and they can remove borrower’s assets if payments are late or not forthcoming.
They use weapons such as intimidation and shaming people, and occasionally they resort to physical violence. The problem though is that they do fill a niche, providing easy to obtain loans.
Using family and friends to help
Using family and friends if you have them to help when you are in financial difficulty should be prioritised over going to Mashonisas. But you do need to tread carefully. If you are not able to afford to repay any money you could be offered, it can destroy relationships if it hasn’t been agreed on beforehand. If the shoe is on the other foot and you are approached by a friend or relative for financial help you need to be aware of the options that are open to you.
The best thing you can do when you are in debt is to try and solve the problem yourself without involving people you know personally. Getting debt counselling is a good place to start – especially if you are not financially literate. Leave borrowing from friends and relatives as a last option and try to avoid contacting loan sharks completely.