Growing Pains: Argh! Bad credit

2013-11-12 10:00

I still remember the first time I received one of those legal notices threatening to take me to court for money I owed.

I panicked, and quickly paid. I was at the time young and naive.

In time, I learnt that I couldn’t go to jail for owing money.

Phew! And I have also learnt that many of the so-called legal notices that companies have sent me over the years weren’t legal tender, so to speak.

So I’ve learnt to ignore them.

Ironically, as I got better jobs and better pay, my debts also got better, for my creditors.

Soon, I was blacklisted and swimming in a pool of debt, and yet, only when the sheriff of the court came knocking at my door did I begin to take notice.

I now admit the hubris that I had: a disbelief that the universe will let anything bad happen. It’s like that feeling some regular weed smokers get – that “to hell with it” kind of feeling.

Years – and many similar hard lessons in financial management – later, I tried to make sense of the financial woes currently facing the ANC Youth League (this author is a member of its national task team).

When my colleagues and I took over the running of the league earlier this year, we were confronted with a massive debt and a court case where one of the creditors was applying to have the league liquidated for the R15?million it owed to the University of the Free State.

Clearly someone ignored a legal notice.

I looked at it as someone who had been young and messed up. You know, they got that “argh! to hell with it” feeling.

But questions still haunted me?...?mostly from journalists. They asked: “What’s happened to the money?”

I think they meant the R70?million that the league owed, according to all the letters of demand swarming our offices.

The information before us is sketchy, but what is clear is that some of the people who were at the league’s helm during the past five years had that “to hell with it” feeling.

While income was supposedly rising, as the growth in membership implies, many debts were not paid at all, and even further debt was entered into.

Or, maybe, the questions relate to the money from the sale of assets of the league’s investment arm, Lembede Investment Holdings, which happened over the same period.

It’s a good question, one that the national task team interim leadership should be tackling quite seriously.

If we are to take the issue of accountability to our people seriously, then charity begins at home.

Many of us as young people, eight?million if the credit records are accurate, have made horrendous financial decisions.

But R70?million in debts and R400?million worth of missing assets is another story.

It is a story of arrogance and contempt. A story of theft.

It’s a giant “eff you” to the league members from those they once adored and sang about.

It’s much like the story of the R1?billion missing from the Limpopo coffers because a network of affiliates to the province’s leaders plundered the province, while denouncing others as corrupt.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Of course, the logic must have been: why would anything happen to the youth league when it is the kingmaker and even has the power to make someone the ANC president?

This at a time when leading was like a blank cheque.

Extrapolating the SA Revenue Services tax bill of R16?million for the youth league’s then leader, the one who once publicly said he wasn’t in business and was being paid R20?000 a month, means that he would have received in excess of R50?million from somewhere – God only knows where – but enough to pay off any niggling R17?million in debt from hosting a conference that exalted him.

It makes sense now why this former youth league leader has fashioned himself as the champion of the poor, because that’s were he leaves the masses in his wake – broke.

»Follow me on Twitter @shakasisulu

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