Crime

Woman free after bigamy charge

In what is seen as a landmark victory, the widow of former Steve Tshwete Director of Public Safety, Ahmed Seedat, was acquitted of bigamy in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court on Monday.

Sardia Seedat spoke to the Middelburg Observer about the charge she faced and how she feels about the verdict.

She was married to Mohammed Ali Gaffoor in 1998 during an Islamic ceremony. She was his second wife. What was supposed to be the start of the rest of her life soon turned into a living hell she claims. For the past eight years, Sardia said she begged her husband for a divorce and he refused.

Pleading with priests and friends did not help, she says. Most advised that she make peace and return to her husband.

Sardia tells how Mr Seedat was the only one who stood up for her when her husband assaulted her in front of his friends because she scratched his car.

In 2014, Sardia was granted a first divorce, allowing her to leave Dr. Gafoor’s house. She and Mr. Seedat, with which she was having an affair at the time, moved in together and was legally married.

But happily ever after still eluded Sardia. Shortly after news of her marriage to Mr Seedat broke, they were phoned by a detective, informing them that a criminal case of bigamy was opened against them by Sardia’s former husband.

“I was scared. I did not know what bigamy was and why I was accused of it. Most cops could not explain it to us as they also did not know what it was. I was in a state. I had to go to the police station to get my fingerprints taken, like a criminal.”

The matter was removed from the court roll three times only for her to be informed that it was placed back on the roll yet again. The last time was as the couple was returning from holiday and shortly before Mr Seedat’s untimely death in January this year.

Sardia was left to fend for herself. She claims that the state gave her an ultimatum: either plead guilty or enter into mediation discussions with Dr. Gaffoor. But she wanted neither; she wanted her day in court.

She says that the turning point was when she appointed adv. Sergie Brimiah from Pietermaritzburg as her legal representative.

On Monday 15 June, Sardia finally had her day in court and Dr. Gafoor took to the witness stand.

Adv. Brimiah said that he found it tragic that a medical doctor with influence “could resort to such bullying tactics” and that no one else in the community stood up to defend Sardia.

“He said, under oath, that according to Islamic law, a man can take up to four wives without the consent of the first wife. And that a woman cannot divorce her husband but the husband can divorce the wife. That is simply absurd.”

“The version, as testified by the doctor, that women are not allowed to divorce shows that the whole thing is designed to subjugate women. Women’s groups should actively get involved in cases like this.”

Shortly after Dr Gafoor’s testimony, adv Brimiah made an application for discharge which was granted, freeing Sardia of the axe hanging over her head for so long.

Friends who sat in during the interview with Sardia recall how members of the public bench, who were there for other charges but ended up listening in on the trial, cheered when the verdict was delivered.

“I have been through hell. So many people were against us during this whole thing. But today, I have my innocence. I am not an educated woman, but I learned a lot through this.”

The soft spoken widow smiles bravely before looking you straight in the eye and saying: “I should not hide, I should be proud.”

• Dr Gafoor said that he is saddened by the fact that his and Sardia’s Islamic marriage was not recognized. He says that the divorce he granted his wife, was a revocable one.

“That is the court’s decision and I must respect it. But I know, in God’s eyes, we are still married. I cannot put a gun to her head to make her come back.”

Dr Gafoor vehemently denied ever assaulting or abusing his wife.

“That was just a plot to disgrace me. I hacked into her phone and I have proof that they were planning to make up stories about me.”

He said that he felt that the Islamic laws were mocked by adv. Brimiah.

“I don’t make the laws, God makes the laws. I only live by them. God is my witness, that is more important.”

 

Jana Boshoff

Award-winning community news journalist with over a decade's newsroom experience. Passionate about hard-hitting news stories!
 
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