Human rights group, the Housing Class Action (HCA) are taking South Africa’s big four banks – Absa, Nedbank, First National Bank and Standard Bank to High Court for the illegal repossession of 50 individuals’ homes. It is driving for an outcome that will see these repossessed homes returned to their owners or for there to be monetary compensation in the ballpark of R60-billion!
Moreover, it’s looking for a class action that will require the banks to compensate everyone in South Africa, who has undergone the same treatment.
In SA, the status quo dictates that repossessed properties should be sold for no less than 30% below market value. Internationally speaking, most banks are required to sell repossessed houses at market value.
The HCA alleges that the banks have been repossessing and selling off homes at a fraction of their value, and further claim to have evidence of houses being sold for as little as R200/R300, one even being auctioned for a mere R10. Somewhat expectedly, the banks have refuted these claims.
The HCA have brought in the big guns, hiring a banking law specialist – Scottish advocate, Duncan Shaw.
If these assertions are valid, the banks aren’t the only one’s guilty of acting illegally, but the list of those in contravention with the constitution goes on to include the police, the sheriffs and even the judiciary. Accordingly, it plans to haul a number of institutions to court, whom it believes to be similarly culpable.
A court date is yet to be set, even so, the HCA has compiled a 200-page submission. Curiously, this case arises soon after Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene asserted that South Africa has ‘…one of the most predatory banking systems in the world…’ stressing that ‘…the financial sector must be transformed to be more transparent to the consumer.’ He also said that it was ‘not okay’ for banks to market financial products that severely punished consumers for falling into arrears.
On that note, let’s hold thumbs for transformation!