Some lawyers who are administrators play the following games with garnishee orders and therefore with people’s lives:
1. A single debtor can have her debt administered by more than 6 different administrators
2. Administrators are lawyers with BA Law and LLB degrees yet some do not ask how much a debtor has paid to the previous administrators when they take over the administration order
3. They garnishee a debtor’s salary without having an end date in mind
4. They can garnishee a debtor’s salary for life
5. They do not give any statements to the debtors so debtors never know how much they have paid in total over the years
6. They do not give settlement figures when asked by the debtors so the debtors are made to pay the garnishee order for many years
7. There are instances where debtors’ entire salaries are garnisheed leaving no money for the debtor to live on
8. Some lawyers are clearly overcharging debtors and this explains why a debt of R1500 can end up being over R20 000.
9. There is no limit to the number of garnishee orders you can have against your salary. I have received an email from someone who has more than 7 garnishee orders against their names
There is a lot more wrong with garnishee orders and it is sad that in a new South Africa, this is allowed to continue and our authorities have full knowledge of this and yet are not doing anything to protect over – indebted consumers.
In July I wrote about Mama Buyi who has paid her garnishee order for over 10 years and has paid over R50 000 for a debt of just over R11 000. I wrote to her Administrator to find out when Mama Buyi was going to finish paying her garnishee order. 2 months later, the Administrator has failed to answer this simple question and is instead inviting Mama Buyi for a consultation to her offices. All of us have a right to a statement detailing how much we are still owing and we should know when we will finish paying our debt. We shouldn’t have to go for a consultation to know what the balance owing is. Also note that consultations do not come free of charge.
Please note that this Administrator is a B. A. and LLB graduate, she is an Attorney and an Administrator and is registered as a Debt Counsellor with the National Credit Regulator. After I had written to her, the Administrator wrote to Mama Buyi on 23 July 2013 and makes this shocking admission and yet she continues to garnishee Mama Buyi’s salary. Her memo reads as follows, word for word
7. Please note that we are the 6th set of Administrators to deal with your file since having been placed under administration
8. Your initial administrator was Daniel A Smit of DAS Administrators. He was then replaced by Jacques de Beer on 27 June 2003. It then appears that Marina Mavronicolas was your Administrator and she was replaced by Everhardus Tallie on 22 June 2007. Everhadus Tallie was then replaced by Jenna Mariette Harper of Asapi Administrators. Our offices were then appointed on 29 August 2008.
9. Our offices have no link with the previous administrators whatsoever and hold no information regarding payments made by yourself to the previous administrators.
So this 6th Administrator continues to garnishee Mama Buyi’s salary. No one should go for a consultation to be told how much they still owe. By her own admission, this administrator has no clue how much money Mama Buyi has paid towards this debt with the previous administrators. The Administrator has failed to respond to my simple enquiry as to when Mama Buyi will finish paying her debt because she has no idea. It is not the intention that she finishes paying the debt. How can anyone continue to garnishee someone’s salary if they don’t know how much they have paid?
We have over 3 million garnishee orders in South Africa. The above is just one small example why I believe that the administration order and the garnishee order system are inherently exploitative and should be scrapped – with the exception of those meant to ensure parents pay maintenance for their children. I have written to this Administrator again to find out when this garnishee order will come to an end. I also want to know what the settlement amount is. From her memo to Mama Buyi, she clearly doesn’t know so it is interesting to know what she will do next. If she doesn’t know how much Mama Buyi has paid to the previous 5 Administrators, then she must do the right thing and stop garnisheeing Mama Buyi’s salary. I find it shocking that a lawyer, who is trained to ask questions, did not ask this question when she took over this administration order.
What also concerns me is that this administrator is a debt counsellor. The aim of administration orders, garnishee orders and debt counselling is to help over indebted people to pay off their debts. How can this aim be achieved when administrators take on orders and do NOT ask critical questions to ensure that the debtor pays off the debt? I have written to say someadministration orders and garnishee orders are designed to make the debtor pay for the debt for life. This is just one of many examples I receive from people who are made to pay for many years and many times over for a debt under this system.
How This Administrator has played with Mama Buyi’s life
In a memo dated 1 February 2011, this Administrator wrote to Mama as follows ……kindly rectify this situation by 15 February 2011, by default we will continue with the rescission of the administration order.
Rescission of an administration order means removal or clearing of the administration order. Mama Buyi had no understanding what this memo meant. More than 2 years later, this Administrator has not done anything to help Mama Buyi rescind this order but continues to garnishee her salary. I have written to her again to find out why she made this undertaking and why she is failing to honour her own commitment
Where to go for help with garnishee orders
Many of you have been writing to find out where you can go for help if you have trouble with a garnishee order. I have been referring you to the National Credit Regulator firstname.lastname@example.org. They offer services free of charge to the public. I referred Mama Buyi’s case to the NCR and this was their response
We acknowledge receipt of your matter. Please be advised that the consumer has to approach the clerk of the court and seek the assistance of the clerk of the court. The clerk of the court will verify the validity of the order and in the event that is invalid, the consumer must request a letter to that effect which a copy must be given to the employer.
Senior Call Centre AgentNational Credit Regulator
Is it worth your while taking garnishee orders to the NCR? You decide for yourself. When over 3 million people have garnishee orders against their name, one would expect a more comprehensive response and urgent intervention to these problems by the NCR and the Department of Justice.
How the Department of Justice has failed garnishee order victims
More than 5 years ago in July 2008, the University of Pretoria’s Law Clinic published a report entitled Report on the Incidence of and undesirable practices relating to garnishee orders in SA. You can google this report or find the summary of it on pages 32 to 42 of my book From Debt to Riches. NO action was taken since the report was published. The investigation by the Law School was so thorough it went as far as fingering the Kempton Park Magistrate court as issuing the most number of garnishee orders outside its jurisdiction. It is no surprise that the abuse of poor people like Mama Buyi continues to date. When there is a problem and it is ignored, the problem doesn’t go away but it gets worse.
I believe that addressing the garnishee order problem is not difficult. The reason this problem is not addressed is that it affects poor people and the people that are the beneficiaries of the garnishee order system are rich and powerful. There are businesses out there who would not exist if the garnishee order system was not in place. There are lenders and retailers who continue to lend recklessly because they rely on the garnishee order system to collect monies they should not have lent in the first place. We should be given a report that clearly identifies who the top 20 companies that are responsible for garnishee orders are. If this report were ever to be made available, you would understand why no action is taken to end the abuse. Some of these companies and their directors have won accolades for business acumen and some are in the list of South Africa’s richest people. There are legal firms whose biggest revenue is administration of garnishee orders. When their modus operandi is known to all, they simply change their name and continue with the practice of exploiting poor people.
Where to from here
In view of the admission by this Administrator that she doesn’t know how much Mama Buyi has paid to the previous 5 Administrators, I have written to the Department of Justice to ask them to intervene in this matter and many others like this one. I have asked Mama Buyi’s son to also write to the Law Society to ask that this administrator be investigated. This is what millions of debtors are faced with in this country. Everyone knows there is widespread abuse but you have to write individually to report each case.
REMEMBER TO TUNE INTO CAPE PULPIT EVERY MONDAY JUST AFTER 8PM NEWS & LISTEN TO PHUME AS SHE TALKS ABOUT ALL THINGS MONEY