Thank God for technology, I can now just check my bank balance on the phone without bank charges

Dr Eddie Mahembe

It was around August or September 2006. I was still relatively new in South Africa, having migrated from Zimbabwe in the same year. I was staying with my in-laws together with my wife and our first-born daughter. The daughter was around 3 months old.

I had just started a part-time job as an economics lecturer at a private college around the Randburg area. I was so thankful for the job, which was paying around R5000 per month.

However, on this particular month, I was expecting R3000 as I had worked for slightly over half a month. It was my first month on this job.

I also vividly remember that it was a Saturday and my wife had reminded me that the groceries were heavily depleted and she only had two diapers left.

Together, we did a back-of-the-envelope budget calculation and we agreed that R2000 would go for food and the baby’s needs and I will make do with R1000 for my transport and lunch until the next month-end.

Since there was no ATM in Cosmo city by that time, and we needed the money urgently, we decided that I should use the last R10 from our savings to go and ‘withdraw my salary’ in Randburg.

I was also given a nicely written grocery list. My wife included the names of the stores I should check first for each item; starting with the cheapest.



She knew I didn’t like moving from shop to shop.

Upon arrival in Randburg, I quickly went to the closest ATM. To my utter amusement, the ‘salary’ had not been deposited. There was R67 in my account. I quickly phoned my employer (one of the directors, responsible for finance) and I was assured that by 10 or 11 am, the money would be in the account.

I checked again around 11am and the money was not reflecting. I continued checking and still getting the same result. I was getting hungry and tired, but decided to be patient.

At around 3 pm, I noticed that some shops were now closing for the weekend, and Randburg was getting deserted, so I decided to go to the ATM for the last time. I mean, by this time, the money should be in!

As usual, I joined the ATM queue. I correctly punch-in my PIN and requested for the balance to be displayed. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the screen. I panicked.




My heart was pumping so hard. I began to feel cold and hot at the same time.

Yes, I was angry that my employer had not transferred the money, but I was boiling because the money which was in my account had reduced from R67 to around R25! I was panicking because after this attempt, my balance will be less that R20 and it would be difficult (if not impossible) to withdraw smaller denominations.

I was sweating because I knew that I no longer had airtime to call my employer. I was feeling cold thinking of the reaction when I get home. How do you explain to your in-laws and your wife that the ‘salary’ was not paid?

With trembling fingers, I quickly instructed the ATM to give me the R20 which was withdrawable. I had a big sigh of relief when the R20 came out. Praise God! Without it, I would have walked from Randburg to Cosmo City. I quickly tucked the precious R20 in my inner pocket and hurriedly went to the Randburg Taxi Rank.

Thank God for technology, I can now just check my bank balance on the phone without bank charges!


This article is part of a series from my upcoming Autobiography (Book) by Dr Eddie Mahembe titled ‘HOPE. PERCEIVE. REALIZE. The Sunday Express will run selected chapters in the coming weeks in the run-up to the launch, scheduled around December 2021


 Dr Eddie Mahembe is a Development Economist. He holds a PhD in (Development) Economics, MCom in Economics, BCom Honours in Econometrics and BSc. Honours in Economics. He can be reached on Email: and/or WhatsApp +27 60 532 8754.


















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