By saving R2 a week each, they have been able to save up a decent amount of money which they share and use for groceries and electricity. And when there is cash to spare, they buy more for other needy people in their community.

The Onalerona Savings Group members meet every Thursday to make their R2 contributions. Only two members are under the age of 70.

The money collected is put into a kitty, and members are able to borrow from it at an interest rate of 10%. Loans range between R10 and R50.

“I normally borrow to buy bread for my grandchildren’s lunch boxes, and then I pay back the money during the next sitting after their parents have paid me,” says Paulina Taje (83).

Loan sharks

Isabella Sebako (77) says the savings group has saved her from borrowing from loan sharks who charge a rate of 50%.

Unlike the traditional savings group, where members share the funds at the end of the year, the grannies do not share their savings. Rather they use the money to buy food and groceries for themselves and other elderly people in their community. They also fund projects at schools and recently donated stationery, skipping ropes and toys to grade R pupils at Selosesha Primary School in Thaba Nchu.

“We also talk about health issues during our Thursday sittings. We encourage each other,” said Lydia Mancoe (65).

According to Maria Khunou (77), the grannies wish to cook for young children and spend time with them but they cannot do this without being labeled as witches by some community members. She says the weekly meetings give her something to look forward to as she spends every day left alone at home.

“It feels good to have someone to talk to,” she said.

The group started in 2014 with 12 members with the number having dropped to seven as some have left the group and others have died.

The group saves well over R700 a year excluding the interest made from loans.