THE script sounds like a Tyler Perry production of one of his Hollywood blockbuster movies except that it’s real and the characters are real people in Zimbabwe. A WhatsApp group message is calling for a middle-aged man to pair up with a 32-year-old woman for an arranged marriage.
Arranged marriages are not unique in some societies. But this “arranged” marriage that is being advertised online, where the whole world can see, is purely for monetary gains – for both parties.
It’s a marriage of convenience for the man and woman – once they are a married couple they can easily relocate to the United Kingdom.
Such a fake marriage of convenience is designed to expedite the processing of spousal visas to enable the bogus couple to travel to the UK for employment.
It’s a thriving business for the brokers that facilitate the marriages of convenience. And droves of Zimbabweans are happy to enter into phony marriages just to hop into the next flight for greener pastures.
According to Saturday Chronicle, for one to secure a job, for instance in the UK, they require what is known as a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). COS is an electronic document issued by foreign employers to prove that one has secured a job, which in turn qualifies them to get a visa to go out of the country.
The COS document is not supposed to be sold but now money hungry individuals and companies have found a loophole they sell it for about £6 000, (US$7 000).
Spousal visas, arranged by the middlemen, enable two strangers to enter into a fake marriage to share the costs of the COS.
One social media page with thousands of followers is in the business of fixing fake marriages.
“We have here a 32-year-old woman looking for a man of about the same age willing to partner her to share the costs of the COS. Each party will pay half.
“When the spousal visas are out, you travel as a married couple and can divorce when you get to the UK, no worries. Inbox us your details such as age, location, profession and we will start the process,” reads the message.
But there is a catch. Once in a country like the UK, the newlyweds cannot just divorce at the snap of a finger when they get there. Saturday Chronicle was told that they should remain married for at least two years before terminating the sham union.
While acknowledging the existence of fake marriages, in their various forms, Registrar-General (RG) Henry Machiri said there is little the department can do to curb the scourge.
“We are not in a position to tell if a marriage is fake or not but we do keep records of every marriage in the country.
“Marriages of convenience are not unique to Zimbabwe and are common in many countries because people engage in such unions for various reasons. Some do it, for instance, to get work permits,” said Machiri.
But not all that glitters is gold for everyone who moves overseas for greener pastures. Countless reports of Zimbabwean caregivers in the UK being subjected to unfair labour practices, exploitation and poor salaries abound.
A fortnight ago, a victim of such abuses in the UK recounted her story to the British media. She says that she was fired from her job and victimised after an interview with Home Office compliance officers after an investigation into illegal recruitment practices.
The lady says she was paid hourly rates of £8 instead of the stipulated £15 for caregivers and was victimised after a visit to her workplace by the Home Office in Coventry City.