'R800 to marry a South African'
A Home Affairs marriage officer is facing charges of corruption after she allegedly married foreigners to South African women for cash.
Maryna Daniels has pleaded not guilty to three charges of corruption in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.
The young mother of two was accompanied to court by her family.
The State has alleged that Daniels solicited and accepted unauthorised gratification from foreign nationals to solemnise their marriages and issue them with asylum-seeker permits.
This entitled them to legally study and work in the country.
Daniels allegedly commissioned these marriages for cash on numerous occasions between 2008 and last year, while working at the government department’s Grahamstown branch.
Although Daniels admits commissioning the unions, she denies accepting payment from the couples.
According to the Department of Home Affairs mandate, foreigners can marry South Africans free of charge, if both parties consent.
Daniels was arrested earlier this year during an undercover sting operation.
She was suspended from work on full pay pending the outcome of the trial.
According to the charge sheet before court, Daniels commissioned the marriage between Nigerian national Niran Awoyemi and 50-year-old Grahamstown resident Ntomohlanga Mhlomi on December 2.
Awoyemi, the first State witness called yesterday, told the court that Daniels had demanded R800 to marry them.
The 31-year-old said he had placed the money in a brown envelope and slipped it to Daniels after his marriage to Mhlomi was formalised.
He later received an original copy of the marriage certificate.
The two are still legally married.
Awoyeni said he had immigrated to South Africa in May 2009. Seven months later, he decided to get married.
“I wanted to get married. I was told to go to the Department of Home Affairs. I was new to South Africa and didn’t know anything,” he told the court.
“I met a coloured lady there. She asked about my nationality. I said I am a Nigerian and want to marry a South African.
“She said I must pay R800 because I am a foreigner,” he said.
Asked by the prosecution to point out the woman, Awoyeni pointed to Daniels, who was seated in the dock.
He said he knew her because they had since become friends.
“I didn’t know what it [money] was for. I thought it was fees,” he claimed.
He said once the marriage was concluded, he handed over the cash.
He then went to another counter, where he received his marriage certificate.
“My life is in danger because of this. Me, my friends, are approached and threatened by strangers,” Awoyeni said.
Asked during cross-examination if he stood by his evidence that he did not know what the money was for, Awoyeni replied: “Yes, I stand by that. I gave her a brown envelope. She said if I want to fast-track the [marriage] certificate I must pay R800. She said it would be difficult to get the certificate without the R800.”
Awoyeni said it was two years later that an investigator with the Department of Home Affairs called him at his office.
“They said they were investigating and that I must make a statement.”
Defence advocate Terry Price said: “The accused before court marries a lot of people. She does not remember marrying you and she never asked you for money”.
“She remembers me and the case,” Awoyeni retorted.
“We became friends after the marriage.”
The trial resumes today, when Price is expected to argue for the State to release information pertaining to the police trap which led to his client’s arrest.
State advocate Clint Jacobs had earlier told the court that the documentation the defence was seeking was “top secret” and it would not be in the interests of justice to release the information.
He said further sting operations needed to be carried out and they would be jeopardised if the documentation was made public.
Price suggested presiding magistrate Tobie Gerber peruse the information and then make a decision on whether or not the information was in fact top secret.
Price is instructed by Owen Hexell of Wheeldon, Rushmere and Cole Attorneys.