Cape Town - 120705 - Advocate Hashim Mohamed (L), Area Court Manager Shamilla Nakool, and Provincial Security Manager Joseph Bostander. A media briefing was held at the Philipi Magistrates Court regarding the allegations made by the Cape Argus surrounding the failure to deliver on policy mandate of the court with specific regards to women seeking restraining orders against abusive partners. REPORTER: NONTANDO MPOSO. PICTURE: THOMAS HOLDER

The Justice Department in the Western Cape is hot on the heels of 1 197 maintenance defaulters, says its head, Hishaam Mohamed.

Speaking at the launch of Operation Isondlo at the Philippi Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, Mohamed said sorting out maintenance services was one of the department’s key priorities.

The campaign, an initiative by the Department of Justice to bring maintenance defaulters to book, begins officially on Tuesday.

The department is partnering with the police to clamp down on defaulters who collectively owe R9.77 million in child maintenance.

They also want to trace 124 beneficiaries who have not been found and who have money waiting for them.

Mohamed said the department and the Constitutional Court had identified maintenance services as one of its key priority areas for the 2012/13 financial year.

“Our main task is to trace and arrest those who do not pay maintenance… they need to come and explain their story before the court,” Mohamed said.

“The court will look at each case independently, and why he is unable to pay.

“A jail sentence would be our last resort… first we will look at defaulters doing community service or confiscating their goods, which we have a legal right to do.”

Mitchells Plain tops the defaulters’ list, with 128 warrants of arrest for R1 179 680, followed by Worcester with 43 warrants for R569 154, and Philippi with 20 warrants for R69 240.

The department is hoping to trace beneficiaries owed R140 730, across 36 courts in the province.

This includes a person whose money has been deposited in the trust account at court, but has remained unclaimed for more than six months by parents or guardians.

In Philippi, 79 people have not been traced and R75 375 is due to them.

Mohamed said most of the money had not been claimed because beneficiaries changed addresses and did not update their details with the courts. Some felt that the court process took too long.

After the launch of the Isondlo campaign in September, police arrested 642 “runaway parents” over three months. The campaign also identified 157 untraced maintenance beneficiaries, who were owed a combined R177 000. Of these, 138 were paid a combined R144 000.

Mohamed said initiatives such as the electronic fund transfer system, launched in August, had helped improve the turnaround time of payments of maintenance monies to beneficiaries.

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Cape Argus