It’s been a month of bills.
Not the kind that hurts your feelings as you watch your debit orders slowly chip away at your salary, but the kind that adds to or changes the law in South Africa.
South African motorists need to be on the lookout for the new demerit system signed into law last week that’ll impose harsher penalties on bad drivers.
Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, has also proposed a National Health Insurance bill, which would provide South Africans with universal healthcare – if it actually worked at all.
Most recently, President Ramaphosa has signed the Credit Amendment Bill into law, which could see millions of South Africans freed from the burden of debt.
Over to Business Insider SA:
While the details of how it will be implemented still need to be finalised, it is estimated that some 9.5 million South Africans may have their debts written off completely.
Before you celebrate, though, there are some limits to who can apply for debt clearance.
You have to earn less R7,500 a month, have R50,000 in unsecured debt (not car finance or home loans) and be over-indebted.
While not confirmed yet, it’s assumed that the R7,500 will be gross income – your salary or total income, and not what you get out after deductions.
It is not yet clear if the R50, 000 will be only the outstanding capital debt, or will also include the interest owed, says Benay Sager, chief operations officer at DebtBusters. There are also questions about how the authorities will verify how much income you receive.
If you feel like you qualify for debt clearance, you will have to apply to the National Credit Regulator (NCR), who will decide whether your situation is desperate enough.
When the bill takes effect, you’ll have four years to get on that application.
After applying with the NCR, its “debt intervention officers” will consider your case, and inform your creditors and credit bureaus that you have applied.
The NCR will go through your finances to determine if you are overindebted, and whether some of your creditors were “reckless” in extending debt to you. (This means that they shouldn’t have granted you a loan that you couldn’t afford at the time.) The NCR will take action against offending creditors. But even if you weren’t the victim of reckless lending, you will still be considered for debt relief.
During this time the NCR will provide applicants with some financial education to assist them in making better choices going forward. They’ll also determine whether or not the applicant is able to pay off their debt over a period of five years.
If it’s determined that you won’t be able to settle it without intervention, all or some of your debt repayments may be suspended for up to a year.
Eight months later, the NCR will take another look at your finances. If you are then able to repay your debts within five years, the tribunal will consider rearranging your debts (lowering interest or extending loan periods). If you’re still not in a position to pay off your debts, you may get another twelve repayment-free months. If after another eight months, the NCR find that you still can’t pay off your debts, your debts may be written off – all of it, or a part of it.
If your debts are written off you won’t be able to apply for credit for up to a year.
The idea behind the new law is to provide low-income people who have become overburdened with debt with a chance to start over.
There has been some pushback, but perhaps the most important part of this process is the education needed to manage finances correctly – something that few South Africans have access to.
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