Parliament mulls credit amnesty

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Cape Town - A proposed new credit amnesty could benefit up to two million blacklisted South Africans, the department of trade and industry told MPs on Wednesday.

“At this stage, research indicates that around two million people could benefit,” said deputy director general Zodwa Ntuli.

He spoke after briefing to Parliament's portfolio committee on trade and industry.

Ntuli said the department would, within a month, present the committee with final proposals on how to introduce a new amnesty, seven years after the last reprieve, to those with bad credit records.

She said officials were finalising deliberations on independent research findings carried out by the Matlotlo Group, commissioned by the National Credit Regulator.

NCR chairman Trevor Bailey said it had shown that the removal of adverse credit information under R10,000 would benefit 86 percent of people earning less than R15,000, which translated into about two million people.

He said the object would not be to write off existing debt or to enable people to take on more credit if they could not afford it.

Rather, it was to give some of those blacklisted in the past a clean slate so that they could have access to housing and jobs. This would stimulate economic growth, he said.

“It cannot be about creating more debt, but done rationally and responsibly, an amnesty can create growth impetus and give people access to accommodation and employment.”

Indications were that the amnesty could also help the property market pick up.

Ntuli said the next meeting should result in the department making recommendations about the thresholds and the time-frames for people to qualify for an amnesty.

The department argued that if criminals were pardoned and released from prison, it was only fair that those with a poor credit record should also be allowed a second chance.

She said a new amnesty would not alter the workings of the National Credit Act.

“Other countries come to us to learn from our act, so we will never do anything that can harm it.”

Portfolio committee chairman Dumisani Gamede said he hoped to see the amnesty in place by year's end.

“We hope that by Christmas we will have a Christmas present for the consumer.” - Sapa


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