High court rules in favour of De Morgenzon`s workers

It all started with one of her workers struggling to pay off a debt, Wendy Appelbaum explains from her favourite chair in her house on the De Morgenzon wine estate in Stellenbosch.

Appelbaum, who owns a wine estate, is a leading businesswoman and philanthropist.

She fronted this week’s debt judgement which experts say will have a ripple effect across the economy.

A major victory was scored when Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai ruled that deductions from employees’ salaries for garnishee orders are illegal.

The National Credit Act makes it compulsory for creditors have to make an affordability assessment before giving credit to those applying for it. Trouble started when one of Appelbaum’s employees bought something on credit, but a proper affordability assessment was not done.

“In the case of my employee, they filled in one on his behalf. They filled in that he paid no rent, no food, nothing to pay and only needed R50 a month to survive. Who lives on R50 a month? He has five children. They [microlenders] break all the rules because they get away with it as the industry is not regulated.”

Garnishee orders, as they are colloquially called, are emolument attachment orders that allow deductions to be made straight from the pay of employees who default on loans and other credit extended to them. Through his judgement, Desai has managed to strike down several common practices that can enslave workers.

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