News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
5 Apr 2018
6:30 am

Couple need two court orders for home affairs to fix error

Ilse de Lange

The happily married couple's marital status was incorrectly recorded as 'divorced', and home affairs officials did nothing about it for six years.

A North West couple, who have been happily married for almost 38 years, have had to approach the court twice because department of home affairs officials insist they are divorced and flatly refuse to change their records.

Christoffel Erasmus, 61, and his wife Catharina, 59, of Koster, obtained a court order in October last year instructing the department to amend the population register and their personal informal to reflect their marital status as married.

But the change was still not effected so they obtained another order last week declaring the minister and director-general in contempt of court and giving them seven days to comply with the October court order or face 20 days imprisonment each. The court also granted a punitive costs order against the department’s officials.

Erasmus said in court papers that he and his wife were married in May 1980 and no divorce proceedings were ever instituted. But they found out in July 2012 that their marital status was incorrectly recorded as divorced in the department’s records.

They made numerous attempts over the years to rectify the error, but without success.

Home affairs in Lichtenburg told them the mistake could be attributed to human error and referred them to Rustenburg, which gave numerous undertakings but did not rectify the record.

When they approached home affairs head office in Pretoria in 2016, an official told them the only solution would be for them to get married again, which led them to consult an attorney.

Erasmus said the department had a duty to ensure the national population register and the information contained on its database was correct in all respects and there was simply no justifiable reason why they could not comply with the court order.

He believed the department’s officials were acting in bad faith deliberately by not doing anything to rectify the situation.

Erasmus said they had been severely prejudiced by the department’s conduct as they were both pensioners and needed to sort out their joint estate and finalise their estate planning, which they were unable to do due to the error in the records.

The error would also have catastrophic consequences for the surviving spouse, should one of them pass away, he added.

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