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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

SAM Wives


South African women married to Nigerian men have formed a group aimed at dispelling stereotypes directed towards them and their husbands. 

A new united front has emerged, and no I’m not referring to ‘DAgang’ (although it’s just as exciting and divisive), I’m talking about the United Nigerian Wives in South Africa (Unwisa). Unwisa is a group of South African women married to Nigerian men who have come together to form a united opposition against the prejudice and hostility displayed by society and the Department of Home Affairs towards them and their Nigerian husbands. 
The formation of this group began last year, but only recently received major media attention. At first the idea of such a group existing sounds quite silly, but if you think back to 2008-2009 when South Africa experienced wild xenophobic attacks you realise that it’s a serious matter.Amongst the many reasons for the xenophobia attacks, one of them was that foreign men (specifically Nigerian men) were stealing South African women from their counterparts.Although the attacks on Unwisa have been more verbal than physical, it’s still a cause for concern. Generally, South African women who marry African foreigners (particularly Nigerians) are seen as gold-diggers and loose women. And the Nigerian men are labelled drug dealers who also participate in human trafficking.These stereotypes have infiltrated into the Department of Home Affairs and accordingly, this is where the members of Unwisa face the most discrimination.According to The Mail & Guardian, home affairs officials accused Thelma Okoro of accepting money from Kenneth Sunday Okoro to marry him.

The officials, who were conducting a routine marriage recognition interview, came to this conclusion after the married couple had a minor dispute about what colour the said sheet was.

Thelma had suggested that it was red but her husband maintained it was rust. For the officials, this inconsistency of how the couple thought was a clear indication of a fraudulent marriage.

In plain sight, the logic applied by the officials is just down-right ridiculous but when you work for someone who continuously preaches warnings against marrying foreign frauds, you can understand why home affairs officials have their guard up when dealing with such marriages.

In 2012, Naledi Pandor assumed the position of Minister of Home Affairs. Since then, she has been on a mission to curb illicit marriages to foreigners. As much as there are foreigners who marry just for the sake of acquiring South African citizenship and local women who accept money for a fake marriage, Pandor’s strictness could be deterring many legit couples from getting married.

Before marrying, not only do such couples have to consider the wedding expenses they will incur, but also the discrimination and derogatory slurs that could be uttered by society and government officials.

As much as rules and legislation are needed to prevent fraudulent marriages, it shouldn’t turn into a case of nationality bashing and prejudice.

It’s easy to say that women shouldn’t marry foreign men just to help them get citizenship, but one needs to consider the woman’s reasons for doing so.

Maybe she is in desperate need of the money and at the time can’t think of any alternative. It’s a serious issue and it needs to be approached with caution and sensitivity.

If Naledi Pandor wants to solve this problem she should set out to investigate why women are doing this. It could very well be a case of just being lazy to find employment (if so, then these culprits should be made aware of the repercussions of their decisions) or it could be a revelation of the country’s dire socio-economic status.

The members of Unwisa agree with Minister Naledi Pandor on there being women who marry foreigners for a quick buck, and are willing to work side by side with the department of Home Affairs to stop this practice.

Unwisa reminds us that not all women married to foreigners have been paid to do so and not every Nigerian is a drug dealer. There are legal and qualified Nigerian professionals who add more value to the country than some locals.

South Africa at a Glance
58 780 000 (mid 2018 estimate)
4.5% y/y in June 2019 (CPI) & +5.8 y/y in June 2019 (PPI)
-3.2% q/q (1st quarter of 2019)
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