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‘I lost my job during the lockdown, now I can’t pay my three stokvel

The COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in economic lockdown has further deepened our economic crises leaving many households financially strained. About 7 million South Africans could become unemployed during this pandemic, Treasury has estimated. This will have a ripple effect on stokvels and its members.

Sizakele Tshabalala, from Soweto, is a mother of two and depends on various stokvels for her survival. Every month she contributes to her savings, funeral and grocery stokvels.

Tshabalala works as a domestic worker and in April her employer told her she can’t afford to pay her for the two months of the lockdown and was told not to come to work.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country would go on 28 March as a way to prepare for the rising cases of Covid-19. It’s been more than eight weeks of restricted movement, with only permitted essential services allowed during Level 4 and 5. Ramaphosa recently announced that South Africa will be moving to Level 3 of the lockdown — where most people will return to work under strict health precautions. This includes domestic workers like Tshabalala.

This could be much-needed relief for her, but many employers aren’t able to continue employing domestic workers because they’ve also been hit hard by the lockdown. Tshabalala is worried that she’ll have to terminate her stokvel membership if she loses her job.

But her biggest concern is skipping the burial stokvel monthly contributions.

“I have been stressed. These in times of need, especially for funerals.”

Ntombana Mbele, a Development Economist, says stokvels must be creative and not use rigid measures when dealing with members that are experiencing financial loss — especially during this time. This will ensure that stokvels remain stable and members can continue even when they’re unemployed.

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