A woman from Port Elizabeth who for 16 years has been married to a man she never met is fighting to get her single status back.
The 41-year-old woman, who spoke to City Press’ sister publication Rapport on condition of anonymity, said she found out by pure chance that Chao Chen had made her his wife, on paper at least.
“I have never been married. I have never signed any document to get married. I have been engaged to someone, but that didn’t work out. I was surprised and confused when I heard that I was married because I’ve never heard of this person. Apparently he’s from China.
“I thought: What else could possibly go wrong in my life?”
The woman said she had led a hard life. She is unemployed, HIV-positive, has tuberculosis (TB), bipolar disorder and has struggled with drug addiction.
According to the home affairs department, a large number of fraudulent marriages are reported every year. This happens when a stranger uses someone’s ID number to register a marriage between them.
The woman in question lost her ID when she moved from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. She applied for a new one in 2016 so that she could also apply for a social grant.
She was shocked to be informed that she was married to Chen in community of property.
‘I have never met him’
The woman has now been forced to approach the Pretoria High Court, with the help of the Wits Law Clinic, to declare that no valid marriage came into existence between herself and Chen.
But before such an order can be granted, Chen first needs to be made aware of the application.
The woman and her legal team have, however, been unable to locate Chen, neither physically nor on social media.
Because the applicants have been unable to serve the applicant, the court has now permitted service through an advertisement to be placed in a national newspaper and on the notice board of the court building.
The woman said: “I get medicine from the clinic for my HIV, TB and bipolar disorder. But the medication makes me really tired. I clean houses for an income. I am exhausted when I finish cleaning a house, but I have no other choice. It’s the only work I can get.
“When things get too much, I run away to the streets and get back on Mandrax and crystal meth.
“If it wasn’t for the problems with my ID, I would be able to get a medical allowance from the state. That would make a huge difference.”
She lives with her sister in a single-bedroom apartment in somebody’s back yard. Their rent costs R1 000 per month.
The sister (50) said she does home care for terminally ill patients, but whenever a person passes on the work dries up.
“I also volunteer at the cancer association. When they use me, they give me a little bit.
“I take care of our food and transport, but sometimes there isn’t food. And my sister needs good food because of her poor health.”
According to the court papers, the woman can’t be admitted to a rehabilitation centre for her drug use because she needs a valid ID for that.
Without it, she also cant apply for any formal jobs.
According to court papers, Cheng is not entitled to reside in South Africa merely because he is supposedly married to a South African.