The Department of Justice and Correctional Services says that it is drafting new laws to enable credit bureaus and other credit groups to blacklist South Africans who have defaulted on their maintenance payments.

The Maintenance Amendment Act 9 of 2015 was signed into law in 2018, which allowed the department to further regulate, investigate and punish maintenance defaulters in the country. One of the key penalties that could be imposed on these individuals was to have them blacklisted by credit bureaus.

However, responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, justice minister Ronald Lamola said that laws lacked certain provisions to create a corresponding obligation for the credit bureaus to actually receive and use the information as provided for in the Act.

As a result, the government has been unable to actually blacklist defaulters as was intended, leaving this aspect of the laws effectively neutered for the last four years.

“The ‘Blacklisting’ provision of the Act, section 26(2A), cannot be implemented as it stands, and therefore the department cannot provide statistics on the number of defaulters who have been blacklisted,” Lamola said.

“There is a gap in the current legislation which prevents the implementation of section 11 of Act No. 9 of 2015 as it does not create a correlative responsibility for the credit bureaus to receive the default orders from the Maintenance Clerks and Maintenance Officers.

“Although the Department developed an internal circular to guide the officials on how to deal with the forwarding of the default orders, this circular has not been implemented pending the legislative amendment of the provision of the Act, which will include the correlative responsibility for the credit bureaus to receive and use this information against the defaulters’ credit rating.

Lamola said that there is an urgent need to correct this provision, and his department has requested the legislative development branch to include the amendment of the Act to create this corresponding obligation to enable the credit bureaus to receive the orders and act accordingly.

“An amendment will be made through the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill to be introduced in parliament later on during the year,” he said.

The department said it is currently monitoring defaulters by keeping a ‘Database of Defaulters’, pending the amendment of the Act.

According to the department, South Africa’s maintenance courts have dealt with a total number of 77,778 civil applications and 4,169 criminal applications that were lodged during the 2020/2021 financial year.

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