Going after maintenance dodgers

4 May 2006

A Department of Justice initiative – dubbed Operation Isondlo – to improve South Africa’s maintenance system and bring maintenance defaulters to book is gaining momentum.

Interventions so far include clamping down on maintenance defaulters, appointing maintenance investigators, paying out R80-million in unclaimed maintenance money, and educating the public on their rights regarding child support.

On Wednesday, the department handed over its biggest maintenance payout yet – R95 400 – to a single beneficiary.

The money, handed over to Ms Jane Johnson at the Union Buildings by Justice Minister Bridgette Mabandla, was obtained through an attachment order after a respondent failed to pay maintenance for five years.

In February Ms Johnson received information that her former husband, with whom she has a child, had resigned from his job and was about to receive his benefits.

He had been defaulting since 2001, the year they divorced.

She approached maintenance investigating officer Mbulawa Skosana, who investigated and found that the money had already been deposited into the respondent’s bank account.

When Skosana approached the bank to negotiate for the money to be frozen, it emerged that some of the money was invested offshore.

An urgent court order was subsequently granted for the nullification of the transaction and an attachment order was put into operation, resulting in the bank issuing a cheque in March.

Handing the cheque to Ms Johnson, Mabandla emphasised that Operation Isondlo and child maintenance were not only about money but also about the well-being of the child, stable family life, ubuntu, and the rule of law.

“With stable communities where there is less crime,” Mabandla said, adding that the department would like to work with non-governmental and community organisations, priests, elderly people and traditional leaders “to strengthen this campaign for children’s rights.”

The minister said that despite its successes, the programme faced a number of challenges, the biggest of which was the huge case backlog. She said her department was looking at ways of addressing this, including hiring more investigators.

Receiving the money, Ms Johnson said that she would use some of it to buy winter clothing for her child, and “invest some of the money for education purposes.”

Skosana expressed his excitement at being part of the achievement.

“I am happy and honoured that I made a contribution to the effort,” he told BuaNews. “It is my personal mission to ensure that every child is being taken care of.”

He added that he would work to ensure that by 2014 government social grants only went to “genuine recipients”.

“You sometimes find people collecting social grants and maintenance money at the same time, and those who deserve do not receive these grants,” Skosana said.

Source: BuaNews

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