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Debt Review

SA Courts & the NCR

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Debt Review Repayment Times

Most people who make use of credit actually don’t realise that they are never paying off their debt. They feel like they are since they repay their smaller loans and vehicle finance but many remain locked into bonds for 30 years and roll over credit card debt for the rest of their lives. This means they simply never actually pay off their debt.

For those who enter debt review in South Africa this is very different. These consumers immediately stop using credit and begin to pay off their existing credit. Many Debt Counsellors will strive to make a plan over 60 months or 5 years to settle the debt. Credit providers, in general, are happy to accept repayment proposals over 60 months (or more for cars and houses). This means these consumers are set to get out of debt much faster than the average credit user.

In The UK

In the UK, the system of Debt Review or Debt Restructuring is somewhat different and is known as Debt Management. In most cases, the consumers bigger debts such as a bond or vehicle finance are left as they are and only the smaller unsecured debts are restructured. This is seen as protecting the consumer’s assets by not messing with them. It does, however, mean that there is then less available to service the other smaller debts. This can lead to the repayment plan lasting many years. In one example a consumer who successfully paid off GBP 53 000 (Over 1 Million Rand) was given a realistic plan to pay off her many small debts over 17 years. This was not out of the norm. Here in South Africa, such a plan would be considered to be way too long.

The odds of not messing up over such a long period is very low and places the consumer at risk even if creditors in the UK are somewhat more lenient than locally.

Debt Review Superior to Debt Management

The inclusion of debt review into the National Credit Act means that SA consumers have the legal right to apply for debt relief via the courts. The courts are able to restructure the debts over however many months they see fit. Often however they make use of the Debt Counsellors proposal and consider the responses to that proposal by credit providers. In fact, many courts are hesitant to make an order where all parties have not agreed or tried to agree to the Debt Counsellors proposal.

‘The courts are able to restructure the debts over however many months they see fit’

Some SA Courts Need Help

Some magistrates courts, however, are not always cooperative with the debt review process even after more than a decade of dealing with these matters. In such courts, the judges may delay helping a consumer (and happy credit providers) because 3 pages of the court application might be missing page numbers or because the consumers budget is stated to be approximately a particular figure. Many courts in the Free State do not approve of debt repayments being restructured according to the National Credit Regulators guidelines. Some Debt Counsellors are reporting that the Gauteng Courts have simply stopped granting orders recently. One Western Cape Court asked why a bond would be considered a credit agreement. Such delays do not assist consumers and may inhibit their making use of the rights granted by the National Credit Act. Now the NCR has sent out a circular calling on local Debt Counsellors to help them identify any such courts with the hopes of then going to discuss and resolve such issues with these specific courts.


Download the Circular here:


The NCR, of course, has no jurisdiction over these courts and cannot force them to cooperate with the process or act to speed things along but they can help take matters on review if needed and can advise and assist with research and case precedents. Debt Counsellors should send examples of cases and courts where problems are being experienced to the NCR by the 28th of June 2019 to dcinfo@ncr.org.za