Maintenance defaulters may soon be at risk of credit blacklisting after MPs within the Justice Portfolio Committee adopted several new amendments to the Maintenance Act this week. Should the bill acquire approval from the National Assembly, defaulters may see their informational passed onto credit suppliers for blacklisting.
The move is part of an overhaul of the act being conducted by the Law Reform Commission, which is seeking to include several new amendments that could make the maintenance process easier for all those involved.
Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffrey said the issue with defaulters usually boiled down to bitterness between parents, often leading to maintenance payers seeking to take out their anger on the recipient. This led to an overwhelming number of cases where the breadwinner withheld the necessary maintenance pay.
“The blacklist move, which is just one of the elements of the bill, is an attempt to put pressure on the person paying maintenance to actually pay each and every month,” he explained.
He noted that under the new amendments, should a maintenance payer choose to default; their credit information would be given to credit suppliers effectively scuppering any attempts to get credit whilst on the blacklist. This could potentially provide a huge financial knock to the individual. The Committee has suggested that a garnishee order might be one such option to follow, but also indicated that the Department might consider other options in this regard.
The amendment bill has not come without its fair share of ‘political clashes’ though, with something of a war of words erupting between ANC MPs and the opposition DA, with the former allegedly in opposition to some of the moves. But Jeffery said that whilst the committee did have initial concerns, particular on the impact the bill would have on a defaulter’s ability to make money, those concerns were eventually addressed. He added that they were now under the realisation that the amendments would be the best method to undertake.
Other provisions will see beneficiaries able to apply for maintenance at the court closest to where they work, as opposed to only near their place of residence. In addition should a defaulter be untraceable, the beneficiary would be allowed to approach the courts for an order that force phone companies to help trace the individual.
On the side of the maintenance payer, should they feel they are paying far too much on maintenance; provisions will be made to force a beneficiary to come to court and disclose their earnings. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)