The issues of land and housing have been in the forefront of the news over the past year, but not much has been said about addressing the issue of poverty and the tremendous wealth gap between those who have financial resources and those who live in poverty.  

Hermanus Siyakha is being launched in the belief that those who have, are eager to assist those who have not, if only:

        • they know who to help
        • they know how best to provide that assistance
        • they are assured that 100% of their contribution will reach the recipients
      Phillip Parsons (front right), with the Steering Committee of Hermanus Siyakha at the RDP Centre in Zwelihle.

      Hermanus Siyakha addresses this desire to assist by tackling one of the biggest challenges that the poor face: how to obtain small loans to improve their circumstances, when they don’t have savings, collateral or a regular salary that would qualify them for a traditional bank loan.

      All evidence indicates that access to finance is one of the major barriers to lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to enjoy a decent standard of living.  Hermanus Siyakha provides a vehicle whereby members of the Overstrand community can support micro-business enterprises in the region with small interest-free loans. These loans are provided in order to enable small businesses to grow, develop sustainable infrastructure and create additional employment opportunities.  All loan applicants are linked to an experienced mentor who assists in the preparation of the loan application and provides ongoing guidance and support.

      The mission of Hermanus Siyakha is simple and direct: “Transforming communities by building relationships and growing businesses.”  

      What distinguishes this initiative from others is that the funds for small business loans are provided by residents of the Overstrand, and the recipients of these loans are also residents of Hermanus and surrounding areas.  But it is about more than just helping small businesses access funding. Given the historical divides that still plague Hermanus and the Overstrand region, this initiative seeks to connect communities and build relationships between their members.  The operating model affirms the dignity of all involved by giving a sense of purpose and worth to both lenders and borrowers.

      This is how it operates:  Hermanus Siyakha, working with partner organisations and members of the community, identifies suitable projects, and with a team of experienced mentors, develops a loan application together with the applicant.  Once the application has been assessed and approved, the project is posted on the Hermanus Siyakha website (hermanussiyakha.org.za) to enable members of the community to contribute towards the requested loan.

      This crowd-funding website model has the advantage that the decision to fund a particular project rests with the individual lender; if the amount of the loan is raised within the specified period, the loan is granted, based on an agreed monthly rate of redemption over a reasonable period.  If insufficient funds are pledged, the loan will not be granted. Lenders loan to a specific project and anticipate repayment at the end of the loan period. While no guarantee of repayment is given, international and SA experience indicates that repayment rates are generally in excess of 90%.

      The website will showcase approved projects and contributors are invited to select the project to which they would like to contribute, and the amount that they would like to loan.  All amounts contributed go to the beneficiary by way of the loan; Hermanus Siyakha administrative costs are covered by donations. The minimum loan contribution is R500, which means that, assuming the loan is repaid in full, the actual “cost” to the contributor is the loss of interest on that amount for the loan period, which is probably equivalent to the price of a cup of good cappuccino.  

      Once the target amount has been reached, the loan is disbursed; the recipient is assisted and regularly monitored throughout the loan period by the mentor assigned to the project.  At the end of the loan period the original contributors have their contributions repaid, or they can allocate these amounts to other projects of their choice.

      The initiative enjoys the support of churches and community members whose representatives, together with a number of retired business executives, make up the Steering Committee.  Hermanus Siyakha is also actively engaged with other organisations providing entrepreneurial training and grant funding. Financial accountability is provided by the registered non-profit company, Hermanus Siyakha NPC (Registration Number: 2018/455604/08), through which all funds are administered.  The company has three directors: Jerry van Niekerk, Nigel Thatcher and Phillip Parsons, who all reside locally and serve in a voluntary capacity.

      As this microfinance initiative is launched, all residents of Hermanus and the Overstrand region who want to make a real difference in our society are encouraged to take up the Hermanus Siyakha challenge:  

      • Do you want to be part of transforming the Hermanus community?
      • Do you have R500 or more that you could loan to a deserving project?
      • Visit hermanussiyakha.org.za to see the various projects that are requesting interest-free loans.
      • Consider whether you want to be part of this exciting new initiative by making a financial contribution to one or more of them.

      If you would like further information on this initiative, please contact Phillip Parsons at philpars@telkomsa.net or visit hermanussiyakha.org.za.

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