Minister Masutha tables the Maintenance Amendment Bill 2014 in Parliament
06 November 2014
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Michael Masutha has tabled the Maintenance Amendment Bill, 2014 in Parliament on 5 November 2014. The Bill, which has been preceded by a thorough consultative process with concerned parties and established institutions, aims to amend the Maintenance Act No. 99 of 1998. It augments the on-going review of the Act which is currently being undertaken by the South African Law Reform Commission.
The approval of the Bill by Parliament will usher in measures to compel maintenance defaulters to comply with their legal obligations relating to the support of their children. Parents who neglect the responsibility to pay maintenance for their children risk the possibility of compromising their credit records. If the Bill is adopted by Parliament, details of these maintenance defaulters will be submitted to credit bureau which rates the credit-worthiness of persons. This, in turn, will prevent them from continuing to receive credit while they owe maintenance.
Maintenance courts will be empowered to order relevant institutions to provide details of maintenance defaulters. On the strength of court orders in this regard, maintenance investigators and officers will be able to secure information from the electronic communication service providers such as Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom, if it is proven that the defaulter is a subscriber of that specific service provider. The Department is confident that this proposed amendment will improve the investigation process, because it is often difficult to trace maintenance defaulters and get them to court for purposes of maintenance inquiries.
The service providers are geared to assist and lend their support in this regard. Government expresses its appreciation to them for their assistance in ensuring that persons who have maintenance obligations and who try to avoid their responsibilities are traced and required to carry out their legal obligations. Women and children will undoubtedly benefit.
The Bill also proposes that, in instances where parties have agreed on their respective maintenance obligations and have signed a form to this effect, reflecting their maintenance obligations, there is no need for them to appear in court. This will allow the maintenance court to make a maintenance order that is consistent with the agreement, in their absence. The amendment will reduce workload of maintenance courts, minimise the turnaround time for the finalisation of cases and ensure that beneficiaries receive their money on time, in addition to obviating parents having to take time off work to appear in court where there is agreement on what maintenance is to be paid.
Furthermore, the Bill allows maintenance courts to make interim maintenance orders, pending the finalization of maintenance inquiries. This amendment will address the current situation where persons who clearly have maintenance obligations, try to delay, as far as possible, the granting of a maintenance order against them, to the detriment of the women and children involved. The amendments in this regard allow maintenance courts to make interim maintenance orders if there is evidence, indicating that a person has a maintenance obligation and the maintenance inquiry needs to be postponed for a good reason. However, these interim maintenance orders can be reconsidered if later evidence so justifies.
The above merely highlights some of the proposed amendments in the Bill. After thorough consultation with the stakeholders, the Bill will go through parliamentary processes and we are confident that the proposed amendments, collectively, will go a long way in making the maintenance system more effective. The amendments are intended to improve the processes relating to investigations by maintenance officers and investigators and empower the persons who have maintenance obligations to remain active participants in the decision-making.
In the spirit of participatory democracy and the interests of the maintenance system, the Department encourages all interested parties to submit their comments to Parliament and contribute in building a South Africa that cares for its women and children.
Spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
This article has been copied verbatim from the Department of Justice official website.