Some South African women married to Nigerians staged a peaceful protest on Friday on the streets of Johannesburg.
The women, under the aegis of the United Nigerian Wives in South Africa, said they were protesting against alleged intimidation and discrimination by the officials of the Home Affairs department.
One of the organisers, Mrs Lindehwa Uche said that the body is made up of South African women married to Nigerian citizen, under the umbrella of the Nigerian Union of South Africa (NUSA).
“South African women married to Nigerian citizens have come to realise that our marriages are nothing but fraud and corruption in the eyes of Home Affairs and Immigration officials,’’ Uche said.
She said the protest was to demand for their rights as South Africa citizens over freedom of choice of marriage and association.
“We need to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of our choice of marriage partners as the South African constitution provides for inherent dignity and right to ensure their dignity is protected.
“We want to put an end to the current situation where those of us married to Nigerians are being called names such as ‘prostitutes’, and insulted in the presence of our children, when we visit the immigration offices, to renew documents for our husbands,’’ Uche said.
She said that the South Africa constitution states that; the state should not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more of the following grounds, including race, gender, sex, marital status, ethnic,
disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language, place or circumstance of birth.
“We will like to know if this constitution is only protecting South African ladies who are married to white foreigners.
“This is because when they enter the Home Affairs office office the officers accord them the respect they deserve and show them care and concern in resolving their problems. hey do not discriminate against them because of their skin colour,’’ Uche said.
She said the contrary is the case when it involves Nigerians as their rights are constantly violated.
“We have silently endured this ill -treatment. marriage partners should be respected and treated with dignity no matter where the come from,’’ Uche said.
She said most Nigerians were given Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) after their marriages with the promise that the permanent permit will be issue in three months.
“Those three months turn into years, and they keep telling us that the application is still pending."
“However the painful thing is that when our spouses having duly notified the Home Affairs department that they are travelling and are given assurance that they can travel with the TRP sticker they have, on return they are denied entry into South Africa.
“In some instances, South African Airways officials claim that they have been instructed not to board passengers with TRP stickers,’’ Uche said.
She said this is affecting the growth of their children and their concentration in school.
“The children are mostly affected, because they cannot concentrate in school due to the stress of not knowing when their fathers will come back,’’ Uche said.
She said the body will like to meet the Minister of Home Affairs within 21 working days to present the grievances of the victims with view to resolving the matter to allow for the unification of the affected families which had been separated as a result this challenges.
In his response, Mr Khehla Miya, Mayor of Johannesburg Home Affairs Department, who collected the protest letter on behalf of the minister, said the women were exercising their constitutional and democratic rights as south African citizens.
“I want to thank you for the peaceful protest; I must say you are exercising your right under a free South Africa.
“I want to assure you that your letter will be delivered to the minister and that in no distant time, the minister will address your complaints,’’ Miya said.
The President of NUSA, Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, commended the initiative of the women in seeking their rights under the law.
“I must commend the women for this initiative of peaceful protest to demand for their rights under the law.
“They have given the minister 21 working days to call them for a meeting, we are trusting the minister to organise a meeting within the period and invite our wives, and then NUSA will take it up from there.
“We have other options open to us but we want to see the response of the minister to their demand first. Our belief is that the minister will handle the matter appropriately,’’ Anyene further stated.