THE World Cup has givenunexpected help to the over-indebted in terms of a multitude of additional income-earning opportunities and a general atmosphere of optimism that has boosted some job creation.
"There have been reports of consumers getting deeper into debt by taking out loans for televisions or to buy soccer tickets, but we found no evidence of this," Andre Snyman, chief executive of Consumer Assist, South Africa's largest debt counselling company, said in Pretoria yesterday.
"A consumer who is already in debt would find it impossible to get additional financial loans or the credit. It is hard enough for those with very good credit records. What we have experienced nationwide is a slower month than usual and reports from consumers that more have found opportunities to make extra income, whether making boerewors rolls near match venues, inviting neighbours in to watch TV and have a braai for a small fee or creditors have given them a little extra time.
"We should not underestimate how positive the World Cup has been for goodwill and job generation. Some of those jobs will disappear now, but we are seeing a new sense of optimism and innovation among our clients who are among the most depressed people because of high debt," Snyman said.
Gideon Nieuwoudt, manager of Consumer Assist Klerksdorp, gave as an example a woman in North West whose family "bought more televisions for her guest house to enable her to make extra money during the World Cup. "People did not want to stay anywhere without a TV and risk missing a game."
But that does not mean debt concerns are at an end, Hannalie van Tonder, manager of Consumer Assist's Randburg branch said. "More clients are finding themselves in debt due to one income only - divorce matters, unemployment, yet are afraid to seek help."
Delays in getting help put consumers in very dangerous situations because once legal action has been initiated against them, they can only receive limited help from the debt review process.
Charlene Korff of Consumer Assist's Centurion office said: "We receive 10 to 15 cases a month where clients have either been retrenched or lost commission or their living expenses like water and lights and levy go up to such an extent that they are not able to pay their monthly instalments.
"This puts them in danger of creditors rejecting the debt review process, which in turn puts them at risk of losing their homes or vehicles or both."
She said, as an example, that a ban on overtime payments at one government department had seen substantial cuts in the earnings of many staff, "to lose that sort of income that families had relied on puts many in dire straits".
Jannick Theron, legal adviser at Consumer Assist, said many indebted consumers became frustrated with the country's lengthy court delays the savings debt review brings.
"The court roll all over the country is full so it can take a year or more for the matter to get to court," Snyman said. - Sapa