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One wintry day in 2011, Sandile Khowane, a food service supervisor at the department of health, walked into Capitec ’s Ulundi branch and waited in a queue. Once at the front, he sat down opposite bank employee Lungile Khanyile. “I am experiencing financial difficulty,” Khowane began. “How much can I get?” Khanyile took Khowane’s Capitec bank card and salary slip, which showed he earned a net salary of R7,650, and hammered some figures into her computer. There’s good news, she said: you can get almost R74,000. That same day Khowane got the cash. The exact circumstances around the loan, as well as Khowane’s admitted financial position, would later become the subject of a legal palaver which left Capitec embarrassed and a magistrate worried about the bank’s business model. In a scathing ruling two years later, Vryheid magistrate Ellen Gröpp found the bank guilty of reckless lending, saying Khanyile failed to conduct an adequate credit assessment. She ruled that Khowane was hopelessly o...

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