Lawyers: Give us cash in five days!

Themba Molefe

Themba Molefe

Sibongile Mbatha may be a nursing sister, but she will need more than an aspirin to fix her monumental headache.

First National Bank is demanding that the 39-year-old single mother and health worker pay more than R885trillion - 200 times South Africa's gross domestic product of R4,2trillion - in arrears on her credit card.

And FNB wants it immediately and in full.

And, as if the monumental demand by FNB is not shocking enough, the bank's attorneys, Groenewald and Lubbe, have compounded it by issuing a letter of demand.

Mbatha, who earns R10000 a month at Natalspruit Hospital, Ekurhuleni, said yesterday: "My credit limit has always been R4000.

"You can imagine how shocked I was when I received the letter of demand from the bank's attorneys for an amount of R885520440132026.

"I can't even say whether it is R8million or R8billion because I have never seen such a huge amount in figures before."

The size of Mbatha's "debt" is so gigantic it would take the world's biggest economy, the US, almost 10 years at current GDP levels to pay it off.

The letter from the lawyers, dated October 6 2006, was written on behalf of FirstRand Bank, First National Bank.

It said in part: "It is our instruction that you are indebted to our client in the amount of R885520440132026, to which amount compounded interest, - 17percent each year from September 26 2006 - is still to be added.

"We have been instructed, to demand . payment of the full balance within five days.

"Should you not make full payment within the period specified, legal action may be instituted . and your default may be made known to .credit bureaus."

According to the letter, she should pay the money into the trust account of the bank's attorneys at FNB in Randburg.

Mbatha said her problems began in May when, because of financial constraints, she under- paid on her credit card facility.

"I began paying between R300 and R400 less on my R4000 debt. I have never exceeded that limit since 1998, when I took out First Card.

"I travel by taxi to work because I do not own a car and I live in an ordinary three-bedroomed house in Tokoza.

"My salary is R10000 with a take-home pay of R6 800 a month. I pay cash when I am sick because I exhausted my medical aid when I was ill recently. Now, how can I owe billions or trillions, for that matter?"

The letter of demand from Groenewald and Lubbe Incorporated lists several telephone numbers which operate during office hours only.

l Sowetan will contact the attorneys for comment today.