High Court judgement on garnishee orders a victory for poor - ANC WCape

Faiez Jacobs says govt must urgently address the abuses highlighted by Judge Desai

ANC welcomes radical court verdict against abuse

8 July 2015

The Western Cape ANC welcomes the revolutionary ruling today by Western Cape High Court judge Siraj Desai that found some pay attachment orders unconstitutional, unlawful, invalid and of no force or effect.

This could bring relief to some three million South Africans (up to fifteen percent of the employed from especially impoverished communities) who suffer from the continued widespread abuse and exploitation of emolument attachment orders (garnishee orders where an employer is forced to take and employee’s money and pay it to companies before the rest is paid to the worker).

The court’s pro-poor ruling had unflattering comments for especially micro lenders and certain debt collectors that go to courts outside of the provinces where poor people live and work to get garnishee orders that deny people with basic financial literacy access to courts and then the orders are granted without any judicial oversight to determine whether the debtor can afford to pay that money. Many impoverished low wage earners like farm workers, cleaners and general workers (such as the fifteen in whose name the case was brought) are sometimes left without food for their tables, care for their children or basic survival.

Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs says: “This is a victory for the poor and downtrodden in the debt trap. The ANC commends judge Desai for the ruling, the Stellenbosch University legal clinic for its work and the applicants that proved our independent judiciary works for ordinary people from the working class and rural communities. This judgement also proves that our movement must continue with the radical economic transformation campaign to adjust credit control policies and to swiftly amend the Magistrates Court Act to eradicate the abuse of the system that has ruinous results for the poorest.

“The ANC calls on our government to urgently address and tighten the matters today exposed by the court to curb administrative abuse in order to ensure a humane and sustainable system. Those who abuse the system should be dealt with harshly – especially those exploitive micro lenders and debt collectors. The ANC does not include freeloaders who can afford to, but refuse to pay or meet their commitments.

“The ANC remains committed to a fair process and system for those in debt bondage. In order to address the shortcomings and callous abuse, the ANC will also take the matter up at a policy level. One of the considerations should be a cap on what could be recovered in such a manner. It should also be done in order to protect the under-educated, financially unsophisticated and employed at the lower ends of the wage scale from unscrupulous and predacious operators who recklessly give credit. Further to that our government should embark on a programme to better inform people of their consumer rights and of ways to get redress. The ANC calls on regulatory bodies to deal with those who could have breached ethical codes of their professions, like lawyers who deliberately sought orders in other provinces to disadvantage the poor debtors.”

Statement issued by ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary, Faiez Jacobs July 8 2015