Cape Town - The Home Affairs minister has warned women not to become targets for unscrupulous foreign men who only want to marry them to acquire South African citizenship.
The warning issued by Minister Naledi Pandor came as she visited senior citizens in Mew Hall in Khayelitsha on Thursday.
During her speech, the minister called on local women to be careful of people of foreign origin who want to gain South African citizenship through a marriage of convenience.
She was, however, quick to explain she was not painting all foreigners with the same brush.
“I am not saying all of them do this [marry to get citizenship],” she told the women at the event.
“But some get married for their convenience, and later dump you and the child.
“They do this to get South African citizenship.”
Pandor explained that sometimes desperate men even pay women to get their hand in marriage.
The minister added that some women are being paid up to R3 000 to do this.
“By doing this you are helping someone to get SA citizenship illegally,” she warned.
“Don’t get married to help someone to get South African citizenship.
“Some of these people are married in their country of origin, after some time they then go back to their wives and leave their children behind for Home Affairs to take care of.”
The South African Citizenship Amendment Act imposes stiff penalties of up to 15 years in jail on both the foreigner and the South African helping the foreigner to obtain citizenship by means of an illegal marriage of convenience.
The Department of Home Affairs said that during the 2011-2012 financial year, there were 1 209 fraudulent marriages involving foreigners and 2 852 the previous year.
According to the department’s 2011-2012 annual report, investigations in Durban uncovered scores of fake marriages.
One investigation led to the arrest of five Home Affairs officials, priests and marriage officers, implicated in fake marriages scams.
Michael Doyi, 72, said he welcomes the minister’s views on marriages of convenience.
“These children don’t know the seriousness of a marriage of convenience,” he said.
“It puts a strain on us as parents, because we must help feed their babies and be responsible for paying school fees for the child.
“This may be done between two people but it gets us as parents into a mess because it’s done for the convenience of only one partner.”
Pensioner Nomsa Mlunguza, 71, added: “I wish youngsters could hear this.
“We as parents will never have time to rest because we have to take care of kids left by men who only came here to get SA IDs and then leave.
“It is fraud and whoever is found doing this should be charged and sentenced harshly.”
Meanwhile, the minister brought some belated festive cheer to the area.
Pandor also treated the mostly senior citizens to treats and a meal.
Some even received gifts of food parcels.
Outside the hall a staffed mobile Home Affairs office helped pensioners register for the new smart card identity document.