The first three months of 2011 have been a bit breathless for all of us here at Mpendulo Savings. In just over two months, we have more than DOUBLED our membership! Our oldest site, Ocean View and Tokyo Sexwale in Jeffreys Bay, demand has exploded and Training Officers are hard pressed to keep up. Humansdorp is also booming, with many traditional stokvel clamoring to convert to the Mpendulo ‘modernized’ version of the time-honored tradition.
Someone asked me to what I attributed the surge in interest. Personally, since most of our project sites are urban townships, I believe that people were very wary of us at first. And for good reason, many have been burned by scams and it is difficult to know who to trust. Added to that is the low level of social capital present in the urban set up. Quite a number of the Kouga municipal area population has migrated here from more remote, rural places in search of work. Hence neighbors know very little of each other….not a good basis upon which to trust someone with your savings!
This sentiment was echoed by many of our groups members last year when we conducted focus group discussions with them. When we asked members to tell us what was the most important element of the Mpendulo ‘package’ for them, the answer was – resoundingly – “Group Unit/Solidarity”. We were surprised. We thought they would say “savings”, or “loans” or the “lump sum at share out”. No, it was unity, for without this, no one would follow the rules – though they are set out in writing; no one would bother to bring the money back – though they signed their loan book to say they would; and their money wouldn’t be safe – though it was locked in a metal box with three locks.
And so we continue to learn……
As always, stay tuned!