Game Over For Fake Marriages In South Africa
: 2020-02-17 11:59:52

Marriages of convenience, which are mostly used by some foreigners, to gain South African citizenship, will become a dangerous game to play. This warning came from the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi.

While the country has become a haven for bogus marriages, a proposed new marriage statute will make it very difficult to marry someone in absentia, which is currently the main driver of the country’s fake marriages. As a matter of fact, the Home Affairs has started revoking the citizenship of those found to have forged their marriages.

"We are now handling a very difficult case of somebody, who got married, and after getting citizenship, he got divorced, and went home to fetch the real wife. So we are taking his citizenship away. But he is resisting, and says that we are evil, as we found out about his fake marriage after a long time. So he is threatening to go to court," Motsoaledi said.

Between April 2018, and June 2019, Motsoaledi said there were more than 2,000 fraudulent marriages, almost all involving some foreign nationals. About 1,100 had since been annulled, while more than 600 were referred to the courts, to be dissolved through divorce.

Motsoaledi said, young women were often victims of these undesirable fake marriages, enticed with money.

"Young women who need money for their nails, hair, and cellphones, are usually caught up in these fake marriages. Some of the girls do it knowingly, that they don’t want this marriage, but they do it anyway, knowing that they will just discard it. But the new marriage policy will be very clear, and have measures in place to minimise the occurrence of these marriages of convenience. Those who think that getting married is a game, will soon realise that it’s a dangerous game," he said.

Motsoaledi said one of the weaknesses of the current law was that it allowed one person to register a marriage alone, as long as they had the required documents.

"In the new law we will require them to come together. Some of the women end up getting married unknowingly because they had their documents stolen. So we want both of them to appear together," he said.

The proposed single marriage law, which is currently being investigated by the South African Law Reform Commission, seeks to give everyone equal rights, regardless of their religious, and cultural background. The new statute will replace the Marriage Act of 1961, the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998, and the Civil Union Act of 2006.

The commission is considering either a single act with a unified set of requirements, or an omnibus option, reflecting the current diverse set of legal requirements, and consequences of civil, religious and customary marriages, and civil unions.

It is also looking into consent, and capacity to marry, minimum age, the issuing of marriage licences, and marriage ceremonies. It will also look into spousal support, antenuptial agreements, cohabitation rights, dispute resolution in family matters, and bogus marriages.

The new law is expected to come into effect in 2021.

Marriage officers will also be trained to look out for red flags in potential bogus marriages. In cases of foreigners marrying across the border, countries of origin will also be consulted, to check the marital status of marriage applicants.

"So in the proposed law it’s going to be a little bit tough. We are going to demand some information from the countries of origin, that you are actually not married. We will train marriage officers to understand the implications of marrying across the borders. People take marriage like a game, that I will just marry, and annul. But that game will now become a very dangerous one to play," he said.

Motsoaledi said under the new marriage regime, teenage marriages will not be tolerated. Statistics from the Department of Social Development show that, in 2016, there were 103 teenage divorces, and in 2017, there were about 73.

Currently parents are allowed to give their daughter's hand in marriage, even if they are underage.

There are about 14,600 religious ministers, and 1,400 Home Affairs officers. All of them will be instructed about this.

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