Stokvels still relevant, says Sakhumzi Restaurant boss

Sakhumzi Maqubela is on a mission to help communities save money.
Sakhumzi Maqubela is on a mission to help communities save money.

With the rise of pyramid schemes and high bank fees, popular restaurant owner Sakhumzi Maqubela has taken on the challenge of empowering communities through the culture of saving.

Maqubela, who runs the day-to-day business of the Sakhumzi Restaurant in Vilakazi Street in Soweto, has spread his wings to help people save through the Sakhumzi Stokvel: Walala Wasala.

The stokvel takes communal saving back to basics, aiming to explore and implement ways to elevate township people, Maqubela says.

For the millennial generation not familiar with the "stokvel", it is a savings or investment society to which members regularly contribute an agreed amount, and from which they receive a lump sum payment after a period of investing or saving.

Maqubela says his stokvel started after his staff members borrowed money from him, which he says took a strain on the business. "If we are paying someone R3,000 and their family members pass away and they need to travel to the villages, I would give them but then I would take about R1,000 from their salary," he says.

"I decided to start Sakhumzi Stokvel to look after people who are saving as a group, and individuals joining the group."

He says community members need to put away money for rainy days but prefer to bank their money in corporate institutions that offer low interest rates.

"Stokvels are still the best bet, more than your unit trusts or investments that rely on market value. We are more about helping people, than squeezing people.

"I am a member of different stokvels myself and I've learnt a lot. Sakhumzi is where it is because of different people who are running stokvels. You are not obliged to contribute R400 every month, for example. People can put as much as they can afford."

Accredited under the National Association of Stokvels in South Africa, Maqubela says this is currently only for South African citizens. However, in the next few months, Walala Wasala will open its doors to foreign national waiters working at the country's restaurants and who have been victimised.

"My gain is to see black people doing things for themselves and stop relying on people or corporate companies. We have seen the banks retrenching people; unemployment is a huge thing," he says.

Sakhumzi Stokvel has 380 members, a once-off joining fee of R450 is required to become a member. "When we started it was mostly for staff members, but now we have included our customers. We are able to create more jobs for them."

He dismissed claims that the stokvel culture has died a slow death.

"We are helping them save with the people they trust in their community, people who know and understand the township stokvel culture," he explains.