The popular joke about metshelo on social media now is about the rat that ate the book. “Peba e jele buka,” is the finger shady motshelo treasurers are hiding behind when members demand their dividends.
The book is the record of contributions, loans out and repayments in, carefully kept through the year and prepared for this very moment – the sharing of the dividends when members find out how much their contributions have earned for them.
However, 2015 was not a normal year and many treasurers are finding themselves in a bind. The absence of a significant wage increase, coupled with the cumulative effect of inflation from previous years as well as the slow down in bank credit, has meant trouble for many financial metshelo.
Survival rates of these cooperative savings schemes has plummeted in 2015 as members have struggled to keep up with contributions, while borrowers have taken flight with motshelo monies. Now it is the treasurers’ turn to explain. And having been under strain themselves, many have dipped into the savings without a fall back plan on how to refund equally hungry and desperate fellow motshelo members.
Here below are a few choice ones as submitted by the Mmegi Facebook community:
“Batho ba ba adimeleng madi ba gana go duela, ebile ba ile gae ba sa ntaela (sic),” Lesego Segokgo
“Nna kana batho madi ao ke a file ngwanake gor a le ewallet jaanon o tsentse di number di sele bathon ba modimo..(sic),” David Mars Riddick Nchoko
“Malome wa maloba a tlhokafala one a a dimile othe le buka ya one (sic),” Basupi El Oby
“Ga ke bone buka ya motshelo ha neng ke e beile teng, mme madi one a teng a santse a adimilwe ke ntsalake, yaanong nambara yaagwe ga e tshwere (sic),” Andrew Segwabe
These types of stories naturally lead to confrontations, which often get ugly. In previous years, some motshelo treasurers have been assaulted, while others have even committed suicide after being accosted about missing monies. Kgosi Thari of Old Naledi Customary Court said this year they had already registered four cases thus far involving motshelo monies and disgruntled members.
“We already have three or four cases. We normally arbitrate when we have these issues. In most cases, the conflict is between those who have borrowed and metshelo owners,” he said.
According to Kgosi Thari, when borrowers are asked why they cannot pay, they often give appalling and unbelievable reasons.
“We often have nothing more to do if at the end that person says he/she cannot pay at the time because he/she does not have money. We can only order them to pay after some time.”
Thari said people should learn to be trustworthy as they are dragging Setswana culture in the mud.
“Community savings are part of Setswana culture as they come from a long way when people would participate in Molaletsa.”
Most police bases, meanwhile, are yet to record a single incident involving metshelo this season.
“We know this is the time when those complaints arise but up to now, no one has come to us about such issues,” said Broadhurst station commander, Bonosi Molapisi.
“We are always expecting complaints at this time of the year starting from the end of November until around December 20. Even up to Christmas Day, we cannot safely say this will be a peaceful motshelo season.”
Mogoditshane police station commander, Nkwebi Chilisa said his jurisdiction was equally peaceful.
“We haven’t heard anything yet at this point. We only registered a few cases in the past years,” he said.
Urban Police station commander, Obapotswe Moremi said cases were expected as the month is only beginning.
“Currently there are no reports, but we cannot rule anything out because the month is only beginning. Last year we did not register any case associated to metshelo, but I know those things might be happening,” he said.
He added: “In my policing area maybe the people are too poor to partake in those”.
Moremi advised motshelo members to participate in formal banking activities rather than saving their funds in metshelo.
“People should resort to banking than metshelo. They should also know that there are other banks who promote metshelo and they should take their money there to avoid conflicts.”