G-SPOT

‘Cheque’s in the post’ and other forgotten proverbs

It is much easier to do things knowing for certain whether you have the money or not

In Summary

• Issuing and acceptance of cheques in SA will cease with effect from New Year’s Eve

Ruiru MP Simon King'ara presents a cheque to one of the groups that benefited from Sh5 million Women Enterprise Fund disbursed in Ruiru town
Ruiru MP Simon King'ara presents a cheque to one of the groups that benefited from Sh5 million Women Enterprise Fund disbursed in Ruiru town
Image: JOHN KAMAU

By now, regular readers of this column must have figured out that I’m kind of old school when it comes to certain things.

For instance, I’ve written in this column before about my lingering preference for a typewriter over a computer, and how I treasure manual gear shifts to automatic ones in cars.

Now as the year closes, I would like to say a fond farewell to the cheque book. Really an old friend, who saved me a few times through the years by creating a financial breathing space where there was none.

The South African Reserve Bank (Central Bank), together with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, the Payments Association of South Africa and the Banking Association South Africa, last week signed the death warrant for cheques in South Africa.

They have said that the issuing and the acceptance or collection of cheques will cease effective New Year’s Eve or December 31.

Among the reasons they gave, other than Covid-19, which seems to be blamed for everything this year, was that cheques take too long to process (which is true enough) and declining use (also true).

From what I read in my research, Kenya has recently been through or is currently undergoing a similar process. It is clearly a global phenomenon.

While I don’t think I have written a cheque in nearly 10 years, I must say I’m still going to miss the fact of them. 

I remember times when I owed money and was certain, or almost certain, that I would have cash in my account in two or three days. At times like those, a cheque would be enough to calm my creditors and get them to call off their dogs.

Of course the problem with this system of mine was that it was almost always dependent on a chain of events over which I had absolutely no control. 

For instance, if I had written or done some editing for someone and they were themselves relying on a promise of payment from elsewhere that didn’t materialise on time, the whole house of cards would collapse. 

There were times this situation would be on a wash, rinse, repeat cycle, depending on who I was working for at the time. 

Now before anyone I ever presented a bad cheque to comes to remind me of those dark days, I will openly admit to having presented and received my fair share of bouncing cheques. 

Once again to anyone reading this to whom I ever gave a rubber cheque, my sincere apologies, it was never intentional.

Of course, as with so many of these situations, one’s feelings about things depends on what side of the fence you are on.

Many a time when someone gave me a dishonoured cheque, I would go off on a rant about there being lies, damn lies and promises to pay. 

However, being aware of my own foibles when it came to money, I wouldn’t go on too much as that would just be hypocritical.

Then there was the time I missed out on buying my dream car because a certain bank would not clear what they termed an “upcountry” cheque for over three weeks.

This incident still rankles. The cheque was from their branch in Kerugoya to my account in Westlands. A distance of about 125km. At one point, I even offered to pay for a cab to fetch the cheque, if that was the problem, but to no avail. Apparently that’s not how cheque clearance worked. 

Actually, now that I come to think of it, maybe it is just as well that those days are gone. It is much easier to do things knowing for certain whether you have the money or not. For everything else, there’s a credit card.

Actually, I swore off credit cards, too, but that’s another story altogether.

Happy chequeless 2021.

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