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We're not financially 'woke' enough to buy food on credit

Pick n Pay is joining Woolworths and other stores to offer customers the option of purchasing groceries on credit.

Pick n Pay is joining Woolworths and other stores to offer customers the option of purchasing groceries on credit.

Published Sep 27, 2017


My heart sank when I heard that Pick n Pay would be joining Woolworths and other supermarkets to start selling food on credit. It’s simple: buying food on credit is a service that the middle class and those below can gain access to with ease.

But that is so disturbing because we have a bad record of credit repayments. As a village boy, growing up in a community that is hopelessly financially illiterate, I see this as another indirect financial exploitation exercise on the predominantly black, poor and middle-class South Africans.

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As you read this, you may have a higher education qualification or two, a good job, earn a decent salary but still lack financial intelligence.

I have learnt that no matter how educated you are, it does not mean you are financially literate.

Then there is that word I hate so much where credit is concerned: “qualify”.

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Just because you qualify for X-amount on credit, does not necessarily mean you can afford it.

How long are we going to be trapped in the endless debts of things we do not have to buy on credit?

South Africans need to grow up. They need to be financially aware, be financially “woke”, then we can talk about offering things such as food on credit on a bigger scale.

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Not now, when we are all about peer pressure even after 40. You still find adults buying houses in suburbs they cannot afford with money they do not have simply because they qualify for such an amount of credit.

We need to be economically emancipated and economic emancipation goes with financial literacy. Unfortunately, and so frustrating, many people do not possess this.

A person is told by the bank that they qualify for a car that is worth R500 000, then they go for that luxury car, yet they cannot even afford fuel to keep the car running for a month.

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I need not mention that they cannot even afford the car insurance. But credit says they can have that particular car.

Another example is the clothes we wear. It is about keeping up with the Joneses. We don’t stay in our lanes, we are showy. We want to look glitzy and impress people who don’t really care or matter by buying clothes and other materialistic things with money we do not have.

This will lead to even more black people being blacklisted.

Financial illiteracy is the biggest enemy to the working class, especially many black people, who essentially are the majority.

We all have the responsibility to grow our economy and buying on credit is not one of those ways.

The cars we drive are bought on credit. The houses we live in are bought on credit. The clothes we wear are on an account. Now we want to start buying food on credit?

Where do we draw the line?

I am totally against retailers taking this route because it is one of the easily accessible supermarkets to the people who are already living below the poverty line.

Many of the people from the rural areas where I come from buy most of their groceries at Pick n Pay or Shoprite.

No guesses where they’ll be flocking to with this huge “relief” of picking now and paying later.

Being poor does not mean they cannot have or enjoy decent food. However, with such a supermarket at the door of every huge rural settlement, with word of mouth spreading so quickly, soon we will be seeing huge trolleys being pushed around with lots of food bought on credit.

Unfortunately, the people do not go into the supermarket to buy necessities on credit. What am I even saying? Food is a necessary living expense. It cannot be wise to spend money you do not have on food.

I know buying food on credit is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for some time. I couldn’t care any less when people who live relatively okay lives decide to dig up debt holes in buying food on credit. Anyway, it was happening far from the poorest of the poor.

Nonetheless, in the eyes of many ignorant blacks, they see the likes of Woolworths as izinto zabelungu (things for filthy rich people), so you hardly find a lot of black people running to such a store. But, times have changed. These supermarkets are all the same. It’s about the bottom line and making profits, even if it is on credit. This hits home. I am worried about those I know who will not think twice about embracing this idea that is going to steal from us.

The only credit we need is the one that must go to the masterminds behind this exploitative idea of selling food on credit.

Other than that, we can do without any credit at all.

That is my food for thought today.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail: [email protected]; Twitter: @KabeloJay; Facebook: Kabelo Chabalala.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Read more from Chabalala:

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