A Nigerian man wants an advocate disciplined for allegedly saying to him that foreigners married South African women only to get permanent residency.
Lucy Okeke, who was briefly married to a KwaZulu-Natal woman, has lodged a formal complaint against the advocate, Nomusa Khuzwayo, in the Durban Equality Court, accusing her of hate speech and unfair discrimination.
Okeke told the court on Friday that he had met Khuzwayo through the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Law Clinic, when he needed help with visitation rights for his child from the marriage, which had been dissolved by then.
He said it was during a consultation with Khuzwayo in February that the comments were allegedly made.
“In her chambers, she asked me to tell her the history of my marriage to my ex-wife. After I had told her, she told me that my marriage was a fraud and that we Nigerians come to South Africa to marry women for legal papers.”
Okeke said Khuzwayo also told him that his ex-wife was “stupid” for not pushing him to perform the required traditional Zulu marital processes.
“She [Khuzwayo] said girls from rural areas come to the city and they don’t know what goes on and they get paid to get married to foreigners,” he said.
Okeke told the court that he was shocked and hurt to hear this statement from someone he presumed knew South Africa’s constitution well.
“I’ve always taken my stand against any traditional performances, even in my country of origin, because I practise Christianity,” he said. “I am a radical biblical Christian.”
He said that if his marriage had been a fraud, then the court that dissolved it was also fraudulent.
Okeke also said that during the 2008 xenophobic attacks, he was forced to flee Isipingo because locals had been accusing foreigners of stealing “their women and jobs”.
He said that when Khuzwayo made the statement he felt the same pain he had felt back then.
Khuzwayo disputed Okeke’s version of the events in her chambers.
She said she had interviewed Okeke’s ex-wife and her family at their home in Ubombo, northern KZN, and that Okeke’s former mother-in-law had said her daughter had been a student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, but had quit her studies and returned home without explanation.
Khuzwayo said the ex-wife later discovered that she was pregnant.
“The ex-wife gave no explanation for her return until the court’s sheriff came to serve her with divorce papers. She then told her parents that she had married some non-South African guy because he had begged her to, as his permit was due to expire.”
Khuzwayo said Okeke’s former in-laws had expressed their concern about his having access to the child, because they did not know him and he had not paid lobolo or damages.
“I asked Okeke about these allegations and he described them as nonsense. I said to him we could not say that in court, we needed to raise a lawful defence.
“That is when I told him that these things happen, we all know they happen, we both know they happen,” Khuzwayo testified.
She said Okeke had misunderstood this statement and that she had only been trying to get clarity on the allegations that had been made by his former mother-in-law in preparation for court.
“And now I’m sitting here defending what other people did to foreigners. He is abusing the country’s legal system,” said Khuzwayo. “He was offered free legal service [by the Law Clinic] and now he is using the system to fight what happened to other foreigners.”
The court is expected to make a ruling on October 3.