Woman married for 16 years to man she never met turns to court
Pretoria - “Married” for more than 16 years to a man she has never met, a desperate woman has turned to the North Gauteng High Court in a bid to set the record straight that she is in fact not married.
The woman is HIV-positive, suffers from TB and is bipolar. She does not know how long she has to live, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is assisted in her urgent court bid by the Wits Law Clinic, which requested that her name not be made public.
She said she only discovered about four years ago that she was married. She previously lost her ID and tried to apply for another.
Both she and the Wits Law Clinic have since tried to sort things out with Home Affairs, but to no avail.
To make matters worse, as the woman with an Afrikaans surname is married in community of property to one Chao Chen, she cannot obtain any state benefits without her ID.
She stated in an affidavit that as she had full blown Aids and TB, she urgently needed medical help from the state. She is unemployed, a recovering drug addict and living with a family member who is financially supporting her.
“As a result of my circumstances, I have been unable to apply for a medical grant to assist me in obtaining the necessary medical care. I am also unable to enter any rehabilitation centre as a valid ID is needed, which I don’t have.”
The woman said he had approached social workers to help her in applying for a medical grant, but without an ID document, their hands were also tied.
“Without a valid ID I am rendered helpless as I cannot apply for any employment, and I have to rely on my family for my medical and everyday needs. The whole ordeal has left me without any dignity, feeling worthless and ashamed. I am also frustrated with Home Affairs, which said it cannot rectify the situation.”
The department did not submit an affidavit last week to the court to set out its defence.
The woman, meanwhile, handed a marriage certificate to the court on a Home Affairs letterhead. It showed that she was married to Chen in March 2004 in Port Elizabeth.
While unaware of her marriage status for all these years, she told the court that she discovered this fact in March 2016 when she tried to get a new ID.
The shocked woman told Home Affairs at the time that Chen had been fraudulently been using her details to “register” them as being married. Neither she nor the Wits Clinic could locate Chen through social media and it is not known where he is staying.
The woman said she did not want to die and leave her family with this mess. She also did not want a situation where Chen could live happily for the rest of his life in this country being “married to a South African citizen” if she were to die or did not rectify the situation.
The law, however, has to follow its cause and before the court can declare that no legal marriage exists between her and Chen, he must be served with the application.
As no ordinary service could take place because his whereabouts are unknown, Judge Cassim Sardiwalla ordered that this be done by attaching a copy of her application to the notice board at the court and publishing the notice in a national newspaper.