High food prices inspire stokvel formation
‘Many people struggling to make ends meet’
When the country was put under lockdown in 2020, it meant most of us had to stay at home and we consumed more food.
The pandemic led to companies shutting their doors and millions of people lost their jobs. This hit many families hard as they struggled to put food on the table.
It was for this reason that Mapitso Rasethuntsa founded Welkom Grocery Society on August 5 2020, just over four months after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country was under lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The stokvel is named after the town in which she lives in the Free State.
“Times were tough when I founded this society and they still are. I realised that many of us are at home and were struggling with buying food as we were eating more. There were many families that could not afford to do it at all.
“I then came up with an idea to start the society and people could contribute R150 every week and we would buy food for different members.
“When we started, there were 64 people who joined. It helped because we would collect R9,600 every week and we had divided ourselves into six groups of about 10 or 11 people,” said Rasethuntsa.
She said this went on for a few months but in 2021, they had to change to buying groceries monthly as many people found it harder to get money to contribute weekly. “This was because many people were still losing their jobs and had no money.”
Rasethuntsa, 46, said the stokvel currently has 18 members and they now contribute R300 monthly.
“Many people left the society because they did not have money to make contributions. We’ve divided ourselves into three groups. Each month we buy groceries for six people.
“It has not been stable as sometimes members leave in the middle of the month because of financial challenges,” she said.
Their grocery list includes among other things mealie meal, chicken, veggies, cooking oil and milk. She decried the increase in the cost of living as this meant they sometimes cannot buy everything they’ve agreed on due to high food prices.
“It really affects us. Sometimes it is the meat, milk or oil that has a higher price and we have to tell members that we cannot afford to buy them everything.”
Rasethuntsa said a lot of people in her community were still struggling to make ends meet and as members of the stokvel, they pop out extra money to buy food for other households.
“My prayer is that we find a sponsor... [either for] mealie meal or meat. What this would mean is that we’d be able to buy more foodstuffs not only for members but for the families we help [regularly].
“It would really mean a lot to all of us. It also means that we would be able to feed many families and change their lives.”
Stokvel member Tshidi Folotsi said she joined in June 2021 and was encouraged by Rasethuntsa’s passion to help the community.
“I know the power of unity and I told her I would support her because I know when she does something, she gives it her all. Mapitso goes around looking for specials so that we can save money and get more food stuffs.
“I also joined because I realised that when I bought groceries, there were things I could not buy. But now that I am a member of this stokvel, I top up my groceries whenever its my turn to get food from the group. Other times I buy extra food so that I have more at home,” Folotsi, who lives with four other people, said.
The joining fee is R300 and the waiting period is three months.
Rasethuntsa said the stokvel also has a membership card which they use to encourage members to stay in the group.
“What we do is, every time we buy groceries for you, we give you some stickers to put on the membership card. When it gets full, we take some money from the monthly contributions to buy a gift for you.
“It could be anything from dinner sets to blankets.” Rasethuntsa added they sometimes go out on social outings for fun.
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