Wrongfully married woman’s 15-year-old ordeal over
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Pretoria – A mother of four has been going through the hell of being married for more than 15 years to a man she has never met in her life.
However, her ordeal came to an end when the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, declared that the “marriage” she has entered into in February 2006 was not valid.
Elize O’Brien has been struggling for years to try to convince Home Affairs that she had never met Khaled Elshahhat Ally Elsharakawi and that she was definitely not married.
The Reiger Park, Boksburg, woman told the Pretoria News that although she was relieved to now be “divorced” from “her husband”, it was not the end of her problems.
She is jobless and lives in poverty, as she could not have applied for a job for 15 years while her identity document wrongly reflected that she was Mrs Elsharakawi.
“I am bitter and upset. Home Affairs married me to a man I did not know. He, in turn, used me to obtain South African citizenship. Meanwhile, I am the victim in all of this,” she said.
The 42-year-old said she had no knowledge who her “husband” was, other than that Home Affairs records reflected that he was born in October 1975, and that they “got married” in Germiston.
“I never partook in a marriage and I never signed a marriage register.”
She only discovered her marital status in 2007 after the birth of her first daughter. She and her then partner went to the department to register the birth of their child. O’Brien wanted the child to be registered with her surname.
The department, however, told her the child would have to be registered under the surname, Elsharakawi, as it was now her married surname.
“I had no idea what the official was talking about as I have never been married and I did not know this man.”
She said despite her protesting, she was given two options; either register the child under her so-called husband’s name, or under the name of the child’s father. She chose the latter, but O’Brien was not happy as she felt her child was deprived of the surname that she deserved.
This was the start of her long battle to get her life back and to be entitled to use the surname with which she was born.
She said she had been travelling between Boksburg and Pretoria for many years to try to sort out the mess.
She was at first asked to make an affidavit at a police station, setting out her story. “I did not realise this was the start of many affidavits I had to make.”
O’Brien said she was told that the department’s investigative unit would investigate the fraudulent marriage and that they would keep her abreast of the developments.
Months and even years went by, with nothing happening. She was on occasions told to deliver more affidavits, but all with the same result – nothing.
Around 2012, she lost her ID and went to the department to obtain another. She was told to fill out the application form with her surname reflecting that of her “husband”.
“I was livid and refused. But I was turned away.”
She returned to home affairs sometime later and an official listened to her story and allowed her to apply for her ID document under her own surname.
“I was grateful that I at least had a document reflecting my own surname.”
O’Brien eventually turned to the media in 2018 in a desperate bid to get her story out there. Home Affairs at the time said they needed to conduct investigations into the matter, but that they needed her co-operation.
She said she was livid as all she had done over the years was to give her full co-operation to rectify the matter.
The Wits Law Clinic eventually took on her plight and turned to court, where O’Brien now obtained justice.