'She does not know him': How to get a fraudulent marriage annulled

This reader wrote in with a tricky question, and we reached out to legal experts for advice.

Dear Parent24,

In 2012 when my cousin went to register to vote , she was told that she was married and her surname was even changed. She then went to Home Affairs and gave them all supporting documents , including an affidavit , to say that the marriage was conducted fraudulently and she does not know him.

She was then told that the marriage was annulled. Earlier this year when she went to register to vote my cousin was again told that she is married. They asked again for all documents, she submitted new documents and the ones she submitted in 2012 . Ever since then, Home Affairs is giving her the run around for the last few months .

She is currently heavily stressed and cannot apply for the new smart ID or renew her driver’s license. All Home Affairs can tell her is that he is a Pakistani.
We would appreciate any advice or help in my cousin getting her life back together.

Thanks,

Concerned Cousin


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Zanele Makamba, a lawyer at LAW FOR ALL provides some legal advice:

Dear Reader,

We can completely understand why your cousin is incredibly stressed and frustrated - she probably feels like she is constantly hitting a brick wall of red tape and empty promises. Of course, it’s going to be very difficult for her to carry on with her life without dealing with this fraudulent marriage weighing her down.

Sadly, fraudulent marriages are quite common in South Africa, and many women across the country are sent from pillar to post trying to solve the issue (it’s even been reported that some women have been trying to dispute alleged fake marriage for over a decade!).

In early 2019, it was reported that the Wits Law Clinic would bring class action lawsuits against the Department of Home Affairs on behalf of five women who have been unable to nullify their “marriages”.

Of course, aside from the emotional and financial implications, a fake marriage can have far-reaching consequences, such as not being able to register the births of children or getting birth certificates; racking up bad credit ratings; not being able to marry someone else legally; being denied an ID or drivers licence renewal; and not being able to access any grants- to name a few.

In terms of a possible solution, it’s important to double check that your cousin submitted all the correct documents. Judging by your question, it seems that she did do this multiple times, but just to make sure, use the following as a guide (we’ll offer another solution, too).


Also read: 'I’d be lying if I said it was easy to see my life falling apart': A reader shares her divorce experience

According to the Department of Home Affairs spokesperson, David Hlabane, a person who wants to annul a fraudulent marriage must:

• Submit a sworn statement from the South African Police Service that states they have no knowledge of the existence of the marriage.

• Submit ten specimen signatures and a copy of their ID document.

An investigation into the matter should then be carried out. During the investigation, the Department will check for the existence of a marriage register and scrutinise the office in which the alleged marriage was conducted.

In the event that a register does exist, the investigators will compare the signatures on it to the specimens submitted. If there is a discrepancy, the matter will then be referred to a court.

If the above process continues to go nowhere, it is well within a citizen’s right to approach the Public Protector for assistance, and if that proves to be futile, there is the Presidential Hotline. 

This is a dedicated hotline for anyone who sought assistance from a government department, province, state organisation or municipality. State departments are bound by the Constitution to carry out their functions and duties transparently and efficiency. 

Should they fail to do this, South Africans can hold these departments accountable for not upholding their rights.

Presidential hotline

Tel: 17737 (1 PRES)

Fax: 086 681 0987 /012 323 8246

E-mail: president@po.gov.za

As you can see, this can be a complicated and tricky ordeal to remedy, so if possible, get a lawyer to assist you and have your back, should you have questions.

But it is also worth noting that while the Wits Law Clinic hasn’t indicated when the case of the five women they are representing will go to court, they have stated that other women who are facing this issue must reach out for assistance by emailing Philippa.Kruger@wits.ac.za or calling 011 717 8562.

Parent24 is unpacking the issues around divorce in our #dignifieddivorce series, to help parents navigate the legal and emotional implications of such a separation.

Follow the series here: #dignifieddivorce

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