Amidst South Africa’s current clamp down on regulations for children traveling in and out of the country, thanks to a loophole,
it appears that two children have allegedly been “trafficked” straight through O.R.Tambo Airport…
In a story that will no doubt leave many people including all those who have been recently affected by South Africa’s strict new regulations concerning children entering and exiting the country, as well as many divorced or separated parents in general, seething with anger… And somewhat sick to their stomach.
It appears that a loophole has been uncovered, whereby a single parent who does not have sole custody their children may very easily obtain permission from the court, to remove the children from South Africa. They are then able to flee the country, never to return and without a trace…. As we will see now in this very interesting story.Schmidt (34) from Durban
, a single mother of two children born to two separate fathers, a son who is 12 years old and a daughter of 8, recently obtained permission from the High Court in Durban to take her two children on holiday with her to the United States. This was granted without any consent from either of the fathers as well as no attempts being made to obtain consent. Schmidt has since overshot her expected return date which was the 13th
January. Her exact whereabouts are unknown, however, she is believed to be in the state of Florida in the United States. The two fathers are very stressed and absolutely desperate to find out exactly where their children are. Schmidt is said to have a notorious history of preventing the fathers from having normal contact with their children, and generally becomes a problem in desperate attempts for them to be a part of their respective children’s lives. This is where a rather shocking course of events begin to unfold.
On the 12 November 2015, an application was submitted to the high court by Schmidt’s Attorney’s requesting that the children be allowed to leave the country. In the affidavit obtained from the High Court, Schmidt, in summary, explains how each child originated through the relationships with the two fathers; how those relationships broke down and the role that each father has played in each child’s life since. Schmidt goes on to say that she has not had contact with the fathers for up to two years. Ultimately, in conclusion, Schmidt states that based on the fact that she is not in contact with the fathers and that they have no relationship with the children, no reason exists for her to obtain their consent authorizing the minor children to travel.By the 17th November 2015, just five days later, the application was processed, approved, signed and stamped by the high court giving full permission for both children to leave the country, still without any consent or knowledge whatsoever, of either of the fathers.
As it has since been discovered, on Tuesday 8th
December 2015 at 9:15 am, Schmidt now armed with a court order and other usual documentation, took off from O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg on flight EK678 bound for Dubai, with both children onboard.
Neither of the fathers has heard from Schmidt, or their children since.
A Simple Process So Easily Abused:
Now in an ideal world where statements made under oath in an affidavit were completely true, other single parents who do in fact have no contact with the other parent, would be free to take their children in and out of the country as ordered by the court. A very simple and straight forward enough process. However, how open to abuse is this simple process? What if a single parent had ulterior motives? What if a single parent used the process to create an easy passage to abduct a child and remove the child from South Africa’s borders without the knowledge of the other parent, a parent who may, in fact, play a very active role in the child’s life? What if the parent had no intention of returning to South Africa?The following is likely to make other parents from broken down relationships who may be in the latter position, sick to their stomach knowing how easily this “loophole” is so wide open to abuse.
A Spotlight On This Incident:
We take a closer look at the statements that Schmidt made in her affidavit, statements that were of course made under oath, statements that given some rather damning evidence, brings these statements into question, and very clearly shows the lack of checks or restrictions in place to prevent abuse of the system. This also greatly puts this issue in the interest of the public and for many parents to actively know the exact whereabouts of their children at all times.
Regarding the Son:
In Schmidt’s affidavit she makes claims that her son’s father, who currently lives in the United Kingdom, has had virtually no contact with his son; has only spoken on the phone with the son five or six times in the child’s lifetime; that the father has never enquired about the son, nor paid any maintenance. She also states that she and the father have not had any contact for over a year.However, evidence obtained in the form of email communications between Schmidt and the father, dated as early as July and August 2015, tell a very different story. In the communication, the father does, in fact, enquire about the son a number of times. He questions Schmidt on why she continues to ignore/block phone calls and text messages in order for the father to maintain a relationship with his son. Schmidt also instructs the father to continue making his maintenance payments to her bank account held by Nedbank. It is understood that since then, Schmidt has continued to prevent the father from maintaining a relationship with his son.
Regarding the Daughter:
Schmidt states that the father, who also resides in the United Kingdom, has had no contact with his daughter for the past two years; has not paid maintenance, nor been involved in the upbringing of the child.
Schmidt boldly states that she has no contact details of the daughter’s father nor has any contact with him whatsoever. Schmidt also states that to be expected to attempt to contact the father to obtain consent for authorization to travel, would simply be wholly unfair.However, just a simple browse through the father’s Facebook timeline, which is a fairly public profile given his social presence, again tells a rather different story in itself. On a number of occasions just throughout the last year, there is clear evidence of a number of occasions where the father has been in contact with his daughter. Given a number of status updates and posts, it shows that he very actively tries to play a very loving role in the life of his daughter. Constant status updates that include asking people in the daughter’s area to please pass on messages of love since Schmidt makes a constant effort to prevent the father from having contact with his daughter. There is official evidence that payments have also been made both as maintenance and school fees. The more alarming statement in question, however, is the clear fact that it appears that Schmidt did very much know the whereabouts and the contact details of the father. A protection order has been obtained, dated 24 July 2015 signed by Schmidt with the father’s full current address in the UK, filled in on the form. This was received by the father, via email from Schmidt on 19 August 2015. It is said that the protection order was to prevent the father from being in contact with his daughter via her school, as it came to light he had resorted to this medium following Schmidt blocking every other means for him to contact his daughter.Following a recent article published by The Mercury Newspaper
regarding this very case and others, a number of people have come forward contacting the fathers via social media, to explain their own experiences with Schmidt. With no surprise, some already have their legal proceedings against her in progress. It is believed that Schmidt has since defaulted on rent on her office premises. This does potentially explain why Schmidt may not have returned and potentially have no plans to return.This does suggest that abuse of the judicial system has taken place and that the South African court system has been taken advantage of and mislead, by allegedly providing false information to quite easily obtain clearance to move the children across South Africa’s borders without the consent of the children’s other parents.Given how easily the process is so easily abused as we have now seen, one can only question that given this day and age with access to social media platforms, which is widely known to be used extensively by everyone from attorneys to the everyday person to locate and get in touch with people. Why were no simple steps taken to locate the fathers or simply make contact via social media? With the names of both fathers, their Facebook profiles are found almost immediately and just as easily contactable.
Given how horrifyingly wide open this loophole is, should temporary measures be put in place to lock the process down, and prevent further similar incidents from happening until more permanent measures can be put in place to prevent such movement of children across South Africa’s borders? It will be interesting given the evidence presented by the fathers, to see what enquires are made to confirm that correct protocol was followed and to enquire about the legitimacy of this case in particular? Should Schmidt return, will investigations be made into her statement?
Preventing Further Cases:
If you know someone who may potentially be at risk with this, which is potentially any parent who is divorced; separated and doesn’t have full custody of their children, you are urged to share this article, the more people that are aware of this loophole the more people can actively take measures to prevent it from happening to them. This could be as simple as, if circumstances warrant it, request to take possession of a child’s passport for safe keeping. Hopefully this will also force temporary measures to be put in place by the court, to prevent such acts with immediate effect, given the process clearly only takes a matter of days to complete.If you have any enquires, or do have any information on the whereabouts of Schmidt and the two children, you are kindly asked to please urgently contact the attorney representing the two fathers, Roger Knowles
at Roger Knowles Attorneys
in Durban, via the contact details on his website at http://rogerknowlesattorney.co.za/