Cronjé gives valuable lesson on saving

Saturday, August 24, 2013

By Bhekisisa Mncube

Pietermaritzburg – The KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC, Ina Cronjé, is on a crusade to teach the citizens of the province, especially women, about money management, financial literacy and planning. 

Since taking over the provincial public purse in May 2009, the no-nonsense MEC coined the slogan, ‘Spending your money wisely’, and she did exactly that, turning a R3 billion deficit into a surplus within three years.

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has received accolades for being the only province in South Africa that successfully spent 100 percent of its infrastructure budget of R12 billion in the 2011/12 financial year.

Cronjé’s successes came from her own home-grown austerity measures implemented across the provincial government. These included a ban on buying bottled water, paraphernalia, catering for office meetings, a cap on kilometres that each public servant can claim per month, a cap on cell phone and landline spend per employee, no Christmas parties and no team building exercises paid for by the taxpayer.  She even got her provincial cabinet colleagues to hold cabinet lekgotlas in public sector owned venues, where no fees were to be paid except for refreshments.

On Friday, Cronjé started the day with a business breakfast sponsored by Absa Bank, which was attended by over 200 rural businesswomen at Golden Horse casino in Pietermaritzburg before moving on to KwaMncane Community Hall, Elandskop, on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, where thousands of rural business women had gathered to hear how they could better manage their budgets in order to grow their small businesses.  

In both events, Cronjé meant business. She came well prepared with a professional power-point presentation and her energetic and flamboyant interpreter-cum-media liaison officer, Ntokozo Maphisa.

SA drowning in debt

The MEC’s whirlwind campaign to teach financial literacy and planning is occasioned by the grim statistics. The South African Reserve Bank’s Quarterly Bulleting June 2013 shows that household savings stand at 1.7%, while household debt is at a whopping 75.4%. According to the UNISA Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index, 50.1% of South African consumers are vulnerable.

Cronjé’s central message was simple – don’t spend money you do not have and you must save no matter how little.

She outlined three golden rules – don’t spend money you do not have; spend wisely and responsibly and always save some money. She even spent time educating women about the difference between needs and wants.

She further warned women about the dangers of unregulated money lenders, known as loan sharks. She cajoled the women to be aware of the silly season, saying they must never borrow money to finance Christmas spending or buy household goods on credit.

“Each household must draw up a budget every month and stick to it,” she said.

“Even if the retail sector entices you with what they call a sale, don’t fall for the trap, stick to your budget.”

Duduzile Nzimande, a delegate at the meeting, said Cronjé brought them the information and encouragement that they have always been lacking.

“I am involved in an agriculture business. I have been empowered with ideas on saving money. I now know that I need to use my money very wisely and save some of it.”

Maria Shabalala, 66, told SAnews that the MEC’s message was loud and clear.  “No more loan sharks for me. I am going to teach my children to learn to wait for the things they want, and I am no longer going to buy on credit. I am eager to start saving my money that comes from my stokvel. In the past, I used to spend it all on Christmas presents and lavish family meals.”

Shabalala’s sentiments were equally shared by Thulile Ndlovu, 42, and Thembani Shabalala, 60. –