On 19 May 2015, the National Assembly adopted the Maintenance Amendment Bill. All Members of Parliament (MPs) in the National Assembly, with the exception of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), supported the Maintenance Amendment Bill. The Bill has now been sent to the National Council of Provinces for approval, after which it will be send to the Predident for his signature.
The Bill seeks to:
- Ensure for speedy enquiries by the enforcement of interim orders;
- Entitle applicants to approach the maintenance court within the jurisdiction where they are employed thus not limiting them to the maintenance courts where they reside;
- Increase the penalties for certain offences;
- Further regulate the making of maintenance orders;
- Further regulate the investigation of maintenance complaints;
- Further regulate the conversion of criminal proceedings into maintenance enquiries;
- Further regulate the maintenance enquiries in order to make provision for the granting of interim maintenance orders;
- Empower the Maintenance Court to order one or more electronic communications service providers e.g.: Vodacom to furnish the court with the contact information of a person who may be affected by an order if that person is a customer of that service provider. This means that applicants will be able to trace the person from whom they are seeking maintenance. This direction may only be issued in circumstances wherein the court is satisfied that all reasonable efforts to trace the person have been exhausted;
- Empower the Maintenance Court to make an order, in the absence of the Respondent or Beneficiary or both parties, if the order is consistent with the written consent which is handed in by the maintenance officer. This occurs in instances wherein parties have previosuly agreed in writing to their respective maintenance obligations;
- Empower the Maintenance Court to grant an order by default in instances wherein the court is satisfied that a person, (Respondent or Beneficiary) failed to appear despite having been duly warned of the court date; and
- Empower the Maintenance Court to, on the basis of a complaint being made that a person has defaulted on their maintenance obligations, submit his or her personal details to the Credit Bureau. The Bureau will then prevent such persons from continuing to receive credit while they still owe maintenance.
This Bill is seen as the next step in what has been over a decade of initiatives by the Department of Justice to strengthen the South African maintenance system and to put into place remedies to deal with those who fail to comply with their duty of maintenance.