Thousands of middle class consumers who were able to work their way up from dire poverty thanks to their involvement with Lonmin by providing goods and services to the mining giant as well as to the 80 000 miners are facing bankruptcy because of the protracted miners’ strike.
Neil Roets, CEO of Debt Rescue, one of the largest debt management companies in South Africa, said their branch in Rustenburg had more than tripled their enrolment of consumers who wanted to apply for debt counselling because debt collectors were threatening to seize their belongings.
He said in addition to the hardship suffered by the striking platinum miners, small and medium businesses in Rustenburg and surrounding areas were facing a gloomy future.
“Most of the people approaching us for help are now more than three months behind in their payments and their creditors are demanding payment. Many have been threatened with immediate legal action and going under debt review is the only way to secure their property and prevent further legal action to be taken against them.”
Roets said the strike had also impacted business people in the Eastern Cape where many of the miners have been remitting their salaries to their families.
“In many cases small businesses have had to close their doors and are facing a bleak future with creditors hounding them for payment full well knowing that they are as much victims of the strike as the miners themselves.”
A spokesman for the Spar group said there had been a sharp downturn in sales in rural areas of the Eastern Cape KwaZulu-Natal and even as far as Limpopo where many of the miners come from.
Chris Schutte, who heads up Astral Foods, one of the largest distributors of chicken in the country, was quoted as saying that sales in the Rustenburg area had dropped between 30% and 40%.
Roets said if debt collectors attempted to choose the route of aggressive legal steps such as judgements and garnishee orders, it was vitally important for consumers to know and understand their rights of which going under debt review was probably the most important.