Men now also joining stokvels bandwagon Mr Tjilani Ngwenya

Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Features Reporter
MANY often regard stokvels as platforms where women meet to share the latest gossip, and as an aside, save money for groceries and other items.

However, times have changed, and men have also started joining stokvels as they work towards acquiring moveable and immovable property.

Stokvels are a savings or investment society to which members regularly contribute an agreed amount and from which they receive a lump sum payment.

They are self-help initiatives designed to respond to the problems of poverty and income insecurity in communities. Stokvels are thus a form of informal social security. Unlike women who usually focus on purchasing household items such as linen, kitchenware and groceries, men seem to be more interested in going for the big kill.

Their kind of stokvels involve getting what they call “big boy toys” like generators, solar systems, cars, residential stands and essential home appliances. Some give each other money every month and take note of what the person who has been given the money has done with it.

While some men may still feel uncomfortable being part of a stokvel, they have become very common among men who want to empower themselves. In separate interviews, men who spoke to Chronicle said stokvels have been a saving grace for their families.

Mr Tjilani Ngwenya from Plumtree who is part of a stokvel with his friends said they started with buying kitchenware and beds for each other, and they are now in the process of buying solar systems as the area they live in does not have electricity.

He said they all agree on the amount of money that will be required for whatever will be bought and send two people to purchase the items in Botswana.

“Growing up, we knew this was a woman’s job and men were supposed to just provide money for the woman who would take part in a stokvel. However, as the years progressed and we all got to understand that stereotypes were just restricting men, a lot of people are now joining stokvels,” said Mr Ngwenya.

He said he has been part of his stokvel for the past three years. Mr Ngwenya said whatever amount of money is left after purchases are made is shared equally among members.

Men should break stereotypes, he said, and join stokvels so that they can empower themselves and use their money wisely.

He said men’s stokvels are actually better than most women’s because they are investing more money in them.

Mr Ngwenya urged men to participate in stokvels if given the chance as it helps them to acquire properties faster.

He said working as a team is better than saving and planning alone as that slows down the process.

Some men take part in stokvels to raise money for school fees while others join them as a means to save money. For some, the contribution is being used as a lobola saving scheme as some men find it hard to raise lobola money quickly and would rather make monthly contributions and pay the bride price once their turn comes.

The stokvels are however, not devoid of incidents where people cheat each other.

Some people, after getting their share will immediately pull out from the arrangement without giving any explanations.

In some instances, there are no written agreements on how the stokvel will go, which becomes problematic.

Another man who is into stokvels, Mr Leornard Dube from Lupane said his group comprises teachers.

He said they take turns to give each other US$100 every month.

“What one decides to do with their money is none of our business. Whether you drink it or do something that is tangible, it is all up to you. What I like however, about this stokvel is that I am able to pay for my daughter’s boarding fees. Without doing this, I realised I would not be able to send her to a boarding school.

“Of course, I’m running a business on the side whose profits I use to pay school fees but if I have to be honest, the stokvel is helping me to be more financially stable and get things done at home,” he said.

Mr Dube said there is nothing that can be termed as a man’s job or a woman’s job now that we are in the 21st century.

He said men should not be ashamed to engage in stokvels as they are an empowering tool which also addresses patriarchy and advocates for gender equality.

“So far, we have not had problems with people who might decide to cheat out of the arrangement before doing right by other group members. We drew up an affidavit which we signed before the law officers and agreed that if one wants to pull out, they should do it only after the rounds have finished. We also have dates that we are all expected to follow and if one misses the deadline, a penalty is paid just to make sure they don’t do it again. However, because we are all human, we sometimes face challenges if someone has a problem and will be late with their contribution, one needs to let other people know so they can prepare themselves,” he said. — @flora_sibanda

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