A group of women received almost R800 000 in cheques for maintenance arrears at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court as part of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Operation Isondlo programme last week.
Court manager Sharon Burgess said the justice department had identified maintenance services as one of its key strategic objectives and priority areas for improvement.
“Operation Isondlo was designed to minimise the time spent in queues, strengthen the investigation process used in tracing maintenance defaulters and improve the payment system so that beneficiaries are paid on time,” said Ms Burgess.
The recently refurbished maintenance section at the court was open to the public on Friday July 20 as part of the department’s Mandela week centenary outreach programme.
They offered free legal advice services relating to deceased estates, maintenance, domestic violence, civil matters, expungement of criminal records, small claims courts and equality courts, and the services of the family advocate.
At the entrance to the maintenance section, staff handed out soup to visitors.
But the highlight was when five women received cheques for maintenance arrears of almost
R800 000. Wynberg Magistrate’s Court was one of many in the Western Cape to host such ceremonies.
Provincial head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Advocate Hishaam Mohamed, said the Operation Isondlo programme traces alleged maintenance defaulters across the region and focuses on attachment of maintenance funds. “We’ve found this is the best civil remedy. To attach the pension fund money rather than send a person to jail because they cannot pay,” said Mr Mohamed.
Recipients ranged from a case where a man no longer had employment but owed maintenance to two different mothers and two children. The maintenance officer ascertained that the man had a provident fund and on 20 March this year the court ordered that each child would be entitled to R9 000 towards the maintenance arrears that had accumulated.
In another case, maintenance was outstanding for two minor children since May 28 2014. The parties appeared in court on February 22 this year and the magistrate ordered the father to pay maintenance, however, he failed to comply. On April 11 an attachment of debt was applied for and the father’s pension policies were attached. On June 25 the court ordered the pension fund company to pay R 115 000 to the complainant towards maintenance arrears.
In another case, Wynberg maintenance court granted a default order against the respondent on December 11 2017 and ordered him to pay R2 500 a month, which he failed to do. The case was finalised on July 11 this year when the court ordered the man’s provident fund to pay R12 500 towards the arrears and a further R30 000 towards the future maintenance.
A group from Philisa Abafazi Bethu’s women empowerment group were welcomed to the maintenance section by staff. One of the women said they had visited a maintenance court and now know that it is not as stressful as it could be. Based in Lavender Hill Philisa Abafazi Bethu fights for the rights of women who are victims of domestic and intimate partner violence.