South African Miners Are Trapped by Debt

A surge in high-interest lending contributes to mine violence
South Africans protest as more than 9 million struggle with rising debt Photograph by Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

In 2008, platinum miner James Ntseane borrowed 8,000 rand ($886) from African Bank Investments to pay for his grandmother’s funeral. Soon after, he took out two more loans, totaling 10,000 rand, for a sofa and house extension. Four years later he owes at least 30,515 rand, according to text messages he gets from African Bank, South Africa’s biggest provider of unsecured loans. Under a court-ordered payment plan, his employer garnishes about 13 percent of his monthly 12,600-rand salary for the lender. He doesn’t know how much interest he’s paying. “They are taking too much money,” says Ntseane, 41.

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