More than 80 fathers accused of defaulting on child maintenance were arrested in a seven-hour door-to-door operation involving about 300 police officers early on Wednesday.

The 83 men were taken into custody during the night operation and brought to court later in the day.

The joint operation between police and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development started at 11pm on Tuesday and ended at 6am and covered 13 police precincts.

It was designed to send a clear message to maintenance defaulters to start paying up, department provincial head Hishaam Mohamed said.

“We had a huge complement of officers who were involved and we thank the SA police for their assistance. Maintenance defaulters will no longer get away from their responsibility towards their children.

“If they can afford luxurious goods like iPads and iPhones, then they can pay maintenance,” he said.

“Among those who were arrested are taxi drivers and taxi owners. One was the owner of three taxis,” he said.

The Child Maintenance Act allowed the courts to order confiscation of defaulters’ movable and immovable property, Mohamed said.

“If they do not pay, we will ask the court for an order to confiscate their goods to recover maintenance money.”

A total of 249 warrants of arrests had been issued and 83 were successfully executed.

Areas covered on Wednesday included Belhar, Elsies River, Athlone, Muizenberg and Khayelitsha. Areas outside the metro included Oudtshoorn, Prince Albert and George.

Wednesday’s arrests brought to 725 the number of defaulters arrested this year.

Patrick Solomons, director of child rights group Molo Songololo, welcomed the initiative. Parents, particularly fathers, should be made to understand their duty towards their children, he said.

“We hope this will convince these men that they have a responsibility to fulfil,” he said.

He called on religious and community leaders and members of the community to encourage fathers to ensure that their children were cared for.

“Child maintenance is a serious matter and must not be taken lightly. Law enforcement can only go so far.”

Last week Mohamed’s department disclosed that maintenance defaulters in the province collectively owed about R9.7 million in maintenance payments. Of all the areas, Mitchells Plain topped the list with about R1.1m owed, followed by Worcester with R569 000 and Grassy Park with R335 000.

Mitchells Plain also has the highest number of arrest warrants (128), followed by Mfuleni (47) and Worcester (43).

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Cape Times