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Husband who offered R2,000 hit with R70,000 monthly maintenance bill

Judge orders a huge increase on father's offer of R2,000 'for his child's meals'

10 May 2022 - 16:29
A Johannesburg high court judge has ruled in favour of the wife of a wealthy businessman in their maintenance battle.
A Johannesburg high court judge has ruled in favour of the wife of a wealthy businessman in their maintenance battle.
Image: 123RF/EVGENYI LASTOCHKIN

A wealthy Gauteng businessman who offered to pay his wife and minor child just R2,000 a month in maintenance until they got divorced, has been ordered by the Johannesburg high court to instead cough up more than R70,000 a month.

The mother, who filed the court action in December, asked that she be awarded primary residence of their minor child, a contribution to her legal costs and other relief.

Her husband, who responded to her application a day before the court hearing, argued that he already tenders “R2,000 per month for the child’s meals”.

According to the court documents, the couple married in the late 90s and had two children — the oldest now an adult. They lived in a family home owned by the mother, who worked throughout the marriage until she was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and later retrenched. She underwent surgery to treat the cancer and had a long recuperation period.

While the wife did try to start several businesses,  she said her husband would interfere with managing them. She ended up handing her last business venture over to him to run, only for it to fail as he did not get along with the staff.

The court papers detail how the woman allegedly suffered a long history of abuse, intimidation and violence at the hands of her husband, who allegedly has a controlling personality.

On one occasion he allegedly pointed a firearm at their child. She reported this to the police, but the docket went “missing”. The husband also allegedly threatened to kill her and set her alight.

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In November last year the mother fled the home as she feared for her safety when, she said, her husband attempted to assault her. She took only a few things with her, left her  daughter behind and took refuge at the home of a relative.

She applied for an interdict at the domestic violence court in November, and the court-issued notice shows her return date being only this month. This prompted her to resort to court action in mid-December.

The husband's legal team, however, countered that the court had not granted a domestic violence interdict when she applied for one because she had failed to prove a prima facie case.

The couple had been unable to resolve their disputes and come to a settlement.

The mother returned to the family home after her daughter told her that the father had left for another country, and she had been left with the household staff and older brother.

Lavish lifestyle

The husband owns a farm in Egypt and travels there at least once a year. Evidence was that he left his daughter in the care of four employees: two bodyguards, a chef and a domestic helper.

According to evidence, the father has several income streams. He earns R40,000 from his employer, he is a spiritual guide — which is described as a lucrative practice — earns additional income working with stockbrokers, owns a working farm in Egypt and receives rental income from property he lets out there.

He owns two homes in Egypt, one along the Mediterranean, and his property portfolio is estimated to be about R25m.

“Though the respondent has a bank account, he transacts in cash and uses the applicant’s bank account to pay expenses through debit orders,” the court heard.

The court heard that the husband was a “regular gambler”, spending most weekends at the Gold Reef City casino. His wife and children used to accompany him and he would hand over R5,000 in cash for their entertainment.

He paid cash for a Jeep for himself and a Toyota Fortuner for his wife. He spent substantial amounts on designer clothing and a high-end lifestyle for the family, with the wife estimating their household budget at R85,000 a month.

The family enjoyed two overseas holidays a year and the children were given every comfort and large sums of money for their entertainment on holidays. This was countered by a volatile home environment, however.

The court noted that in correspondence between their lawyers, the husband acknowledged that “in light of the temperamental and volatile nature of the relationship between the parties, it would not be advisable for the parties to reside at the property together”.

The mother asked the court to order that the minor daughter live primarily with her and that her husband be ordered to continue paying the child’s school fees and expenses, in addition to their living expenses.

His lawyer had argued that the family home was adequate accommodation for his wife, she did not need maintenance and they had no reason to argue hardship. 

“I disagree ... that the applicant has nothing to complain about. No mother who has dutifully nurtured her children for this long would readily abandon them to go off on a frolic of her own. She has problems, the respondent concedes as much. She must be accommodated and afforded the privacy she deserves,” the court found.

Share the spoils, by court order

The court instructed the businessman to:

  • pay his wife R20,000 monthly maintenance for herself,
  • R15,000 for their daughter,
  • R9,625 per month for medical aid premiums for the entire family,
  • R7,495 per month for household costs and
  • R15,000 for accommodation costs.

The child's father must also continue to pay his child's school fees and all related costs including extramural expenses, clothing for school and sports, and extra lessons.

The court further ordered the man to pay an additional R10,000 contribution towards costs, and that the wife be allowed to retain her car which was to be maintained at his expense.

The primary residence of the minor child will be with her mother, and the husband is granted regular visitation rights and telephonic access to her.

The woman was instructed to “issue a divorce action within 20 days of this order”.

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