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Wits Law Clinic Tackles Fraudulent Marriages

- AY

The Wits Law Clinic, through its pro bono Family, Gender and Child Unit, is holding the Department of Home Affairs to account for fraudulent marriages.

The Wits Law Clinic is considering a class action lawsuit against the Department of Home Affairs in an effort to assist women whose lives have been blighted by fraudulent marriages.  Victims are ‘married’ on paper to a stranger without their knowledge and their surname is changed to that of their alleged 'spouses'.

The Wits Law Clinic’s Professor Philippa Kruger explained the Department of Home Affairs’ ineptitude in the handling of fraudulent marriages.

“Over the years we have had a number of queries from clients seeking legal advice regarding the incorrect recordal of their status at the Department of Home affairs. We have recently been made aware of additional cases through as a result of media exposure. In each instance victims were sent from pillar to post by the Department of Home Affairs with complete disregard for how these fraudulent marriages were effecting their ability to live their lives and support their family.”

“I wrote to the Department of Home Affairs director of births, marriages, deaths & records management, Aaron Ramodumo in May 2017 but my email went unanswered. We also asked for a meeting with a senior Home Affairs official to obtain a proper understanding of the policies and procedures to set aside fraudulent marriages, however this request also went unanswered.”

Women who find themselves victims of fraudulent marriages have suffered serious consequences such as not being able to obtain identity documents, inability to register the birth of their children, being unable to marry their legitimate partners, not having access to social grants and incurring bad credit ratings.

It was only following diligent work by the Wits Law Clinic and growing media interest that the Department of Home Affairs began to acknowledge the problem. On Tuesday 11 June, Department Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, visited the Wits Law Clinic to apologise to a victim in person. A video of the visit is available here.

The Clinic is considering a class action lawsuit on behalf of women who have been victims of fraudulent marriages.  The lawsuit seeks to compel the Department of Home Affairs to uphold its constitutional obligations to efficiently assist affected women.

Professor Kruger’s hope is that the intervention of the Law clinic will assist in holding government more accountable to society’s most vulnerable. “It is particularly disappointing that law abiding South African women once again find themselves victims of predatory behaviour and that our government institutions fail to take them seriously. This class action law suit is a means of obliging the state to treat all citizens with dignity”.