Durban - Running a stokvel is a rewarding business, says a Verulam grandmother who has been doing it for almost four decades.

The 65-year-old, who requested anonymity, said she started her first stokvel at age 25 while working as a machinist.

“To others, it is referred to as a stokvel but in the Indian community we refer to it as a lottery. I am not certain why,” she said laughing.

She said it was difficult to get loans from the bank back then as their salaries were meagre and many of the women she worked with needed quick access to large amounts of cash.

“It was to either pay for our children’s school fees or buy uniforms. Others needed the money for renovations to their homes or to buy electrical appliances, like a fridge or a stove, and even a bed.”

The mother of three and five of her co-workers had each invested R10 toward their first stokvel.

“To many, it may seem a small amount but this was about 40 years ago and that money surprisingly went a long way.

"Over the years, the amounts we invested increased and today, I manage five different lotteries ranging from investments of R500 to R5000 each a month.”

The woman said of the five stokvels, she invested in one of them, contributing R500.

A stickler in her administrative duties, the grandmother of four writes every stokvel she runs in her trusted notebook but as a back-up, her daughter files electronic copies on her behalf.

“I have the names of the people contributing to it and when their payouts are due. They run for a period of 12 months and people indicate if they want to rejoin the following year and which month they require their lump sum.”

She continued: “The lotteries I run is built on trust and it is important to run this type of money saving plan with a trusted group of people. It can be risky when people don’t pay but I have been lucky enough not to experience that.”

Over the years, she has been able to contribute towards her children’s university fees and undertake home renovations.

Others from her groups prefer travelling or using the funds for weddings and birthday parties.

“One man joined because he was uncertain if the company he worked for would fork out a bonus in December. It turned out there was no bonus but he had a safety net, which was the lottery to fall back on.”

This savings measure, she added, was an excellent means to get access to cash without the stress of repaying loans with exorbitant interest rates. 

Asked if she would stop running the stokvel business, she said with a chuckle: “Maybe in a year or two.”