DA leader Helen Zille. File photo: Dumisani Dube

Cape Town - Father's Day is not a celebration for men who “happen to have made a baby” but a day for those men who are committed to being responsible parents, DA leader Helen Zille said on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, they (responsible dads) only constitute about half of South Africa’s fathers,” she said in a newsletter.

“Turning your back on your child is not a personal decision. It has incalculable social consequences, and society therefore has a right and a duty to intervene.”

Zille referred to a court case last week where the National Prosecuting Authority was ordered to pay thousands of rands to a mother of three children for overdue maintenance money.

The Beeld reported that acting chief magistrate Daniel Thulare ordered South Gauteng NPA director Andrew Chauke to pay the woman within seven days an amount of R21 600.

The NPA was held responsible because it never appointed an investigating officer to follow up on the father, causing delays in the mother's maintenance claims. The father had not paid maintenance since November last year. Chauke said the NPA did not have enough maintenance officers and indicated it would appeal, the newspaper reported at the time.

“The message was clear: the buck stops with the people who are employed to protect the rights of single mothers and their children,” said Zille.

“...Once a baby is born, there is no opt-out clause. Our entire society, including our criminal justice system, must align to reinforce this crucial point.”

Zille said the order of the court was a “huge step” in the right direction.

“When judicial officers have to pay arrears themselves, they will ensure that fathers are held to account,” she said.

“Child maintenance is a legally binding agreement to pay regularly and on time, and failure to do so should carry real consequences.”

She said the issue must be dealt with in legislation because it requires uniform application across the country.

“Defaulters cannot be allowed to duck their responsibilities by moving to a different province,” said Zille.

“While the commercial tradition of Father’s Day encourages us to spend money to spoil our dads, it is perhaps more important that fathers should take the opportunity to think whether they are fulfilling their responsibility towards their children.”

She said it was fitting that Father's Day was followed by Youth Day on Monday this year.