Nearly half of South Africa’s children, 48%, have a living parent who is absent from their lives.
In thousands of cases, the absent parent is not held accountable by the law for honouring their financial obligations to their children.
That is why we are here today to launch a national petition in support of black-listing child maintenance defaulters.
This is only the next phase in a long-standing campaign run by Democratic Alliance Women’s Network (DAWN) Interim Leader Denise Robinson, and our many committed activists who firmly believe that a successful nation is built on strong, stable family structures.
The family unit is the most important nucleus in society. Committed parents provide the support and guidance that children need to succeed.
Children who grow up in single parent households are more likely to be born into poverty, especially if the mother is still a teenager. Due to circumstances these children are more vulnerable to substance abuse and being drawn into risky sexual behaviour.
There can be no opt-out clause once a child is born, and absent parents must take financial responsibility for their children.
The DA believes that the least our criminal justice system, and society as a whole, can accomplish for these children is to ensure that absent parents pay their child maintenance.
When we last gathered here at Parliament to protest maintenance defaulting, we were in talks with credit bureaus and government to make black-listing possible.
Through the DA’s pressure, and by working together with the ANC in Parliament, we successfully changed credit regulations to enable the black-listing of defaulters.
We celebrated this victory on behalf of South Africa’s children.
But now all of the good work done is at stake.
The Child Maintenance Amendment Bill, which will give effect to credit regulation changes, is currently being discussed in Parliament. Clause 11 of this Bill allows for the black-listing of defaulters but the ANC has now backtracked on their commitment, and decided to remove this clause entirely.
They have based their opposition to black-listing maintenance defaulters on the weakest of arguments.
The ANC argued that black-listing defaulters would prevent them from getting credit to pay maintenance. This is the weakest of arguments given that access to credit is no guarantee that a defaulter will pay maintenance. In any event, maintenance payments can be arranged through a court.
By opposing black-listing the ANC are effectively supporting non-payment while thousands of South African children suffer the consequences.
Today in South Africa you can be blacklisted for not paying for a fridge or television, but not for failing to pay child maintenance.
True transformation means more and more people getting out of poverty and being able to use their freedoms. Financial support enables children to access opportunity, and for that reason enforcing child maintenance payments is one of the most important things we can do for our youth.
Discussions in Parliament on the Maintenance Amendment Bill are not yet finished. South Africans can still apply the pressure needed to bring back clause 11 and enable the black-listing of maintenance defaulters.
That is why we are launching this petition today in support of a Maintenance Amendment Bill that includes:
• Provisions to “black-list” and limit the credit-worthiness of maintenance defaulters;
• Mechanisms for inter-agency co-operation to locate maintenance defaulters;
• Means of naming and shaming maintenance defaulters
• As a last resort, the freezing of bank accounts
This is a petition we will take to the streets, to maintenance courts and to communities across South Africa in the coming weeks. Our DAWN activists will be on the ground speaking to South Africans about the importance of supporting our children. And we will stage the mother of all fights in Parliament to ensure that Clause 11 is included in this Maintenance Amendment Bill.
We call on all South Africans to support this cause and unite for the sake of our children.
Issued by Helen Zille on behalf of DA, Helen Zille is DA leader and Premier of Western Cape