Ahead of the annual 16 Days of Activism for violence against women and children, the Department of Justice is intensifying awareness around its Operation Isondlo. The campaign seeks to tackle maintenance defaulters, by enforcing stricter regulations that ensure individuals are unable to forgo their financial and parental obligations.
Department regional head, Advocate Hishaam Mohammed, said they had sought to make defaulters one of the key areas of concern during the current term of government. With the launch of Operation Isondlo, they were looking to ensure more efficiency in the maintenance system, by enforcement court orders against those guilty of waiving on their maintenance, particularly in the case of child support.
“It is designed to minimize trauma that not only the children go through, but the caregiver who looks after them as well,” he said.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign is earmarked for 26thNovember to 10th December. Mohammed said they would this year specifically focus on the trauma faced by those affected by defaulters, hence the theme for this year’s campaign would be titled ‘Count me in’.
Although they were intensifying their awareness during this period, it was important to note that Operation Isondlo was a year round initiative. However, they had chosen to give the campaign more publicity during the year end period, when there was a heightened amount of defaulters for whom the courts had issued warrants of arrest.
“If the courts can’t find you, and the police execute these warrants and they can’t find you, the next step in law is that we are able to go to the community. We then request, without apprehending the person directly, that they help us identify the following people, who simply deny bread in the mouth of their children,” he said.
At present, there were currently 1600 outstanding warrants of arrests for defaulters in the Western Cape. Collectively, those individuals owned well over R5.3 million in maintenance.
The search for missing defaulters can also result in the courts ordering the names of such individuals to be published in the small columns of newspapers.
“Of course we can do that, but we are very wary of the children involved. Therefore we have not released all the names, but particularly the top 20 names that we think owes the highest amounts, and have been missing for more than 6 months,” he explained.
New amendments surrounding the Maintenance Act are to be presented to parliament this week, which will seek to allow authorities’ access to the cellphone numbers of defaulters in order to locate them. As a result, service providers may be forced to hand over contact information of the individuals in question. The bill is to be addressed in parliament this week, and Mohammed expressed hope it would be passed within the next month or two. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)