Ex-president's wife wants out, accuses him of 'hiding his wealth'

18 October 2020 - 00:03 By Tania Broughton
The woman, who says she relies on her husband financially, says he must fully disclose his finances. She believes his salary "for life" is about R3m a year.
The woman, who says she relies on her husband financially, says he must fully disclose his finances. She believes his salary "for life" is about R3m a year.
Image: 123RF/Sebnem Ragiboglu

A former president must come clean about his "secretive" financial affairs, financial support from influential people in neighbouring countries and about his assets, most of which are not in his name.

That's the gauntlet thrown at him by his soon-to-be ex-wife, who filed papers in the high court on Thursday in which she laid bare her own financial situation.

She is seeking a divorce from the former president and has begun a rule 43 application to provide her with interim financial relief during court proceedings.

A Constitutional Court ruling forbids naming the parties.

The woman, who says she relies on her husband financially, says he must fully disclose his finances. She believes his salary "for life" is about R3m a year.

"He is also exceptionally wealthy in his own right. Most of his assets, which are beneficially owned, are not registered in his own name."

She says these assets include an hotel in Eshowe, a shareholding in an Mpumalanga bus company, Buscor, and interests in companies and close corporations in which his interests are "masked".

The wife says she has personal knowledge that her husband has financial support and backing of influential individuals in neighbouring states "and if called upon by the court I will be in a position to back this".

She wants her husband to provide copies of his bank accounts for the past six months.

She alleges her husband subjected her to "emotional and psychological" suffering, had "given her the silent treatment", deprived her of financial support for two years, and "allowed third parties, with whom he surrounds himself, to interfere in the marriage".

"I have devoted the past 28 years of my life to him and feel betrayed by his behaviour," she says.

I have devoted the past 28 years of my life to him and feel betrayed by his behaviour
Former president's soon-to-be ex-wife

She wants maintenance of R20,000 a month each for her two minor children, plus education and medical costs.

In the divorce action, she is ultimately claiming spousal maintenance of R150,000 a month.

She says she was at his side during his rise to power and when he faced his critics.

"I fulfilled the role of first lady with diplomacy, decorum and fortitude and sacrificed my own ambitions for his."

She says she advised him on important financial issues, such as buying properties, and worked "tirelessly" on a development project linked to his community.

In terms of rule 43 on interim maintenance, she wants R170,000 a month for herself and the children, and medical and educational expenses, along with an initial contribution of R50,000 to her legal fees.

She says from the start of the marriage, her spouse paid her monthly maintenance, and from February 2018 increased this to R150,000. But in that month he stopped it, saying his salary and pension had not been processed by parliament.

She lived off her savings, and loans amounting to R315,000 from relatives, who needed to be repaid.

As a former first lady, she still has some state-funded benefits, including bodyguards and drivers, and free medical care from the department of defence.

But while her home is owned by her family trust and she does not pay rent, she has to pay for all expenses, for three domestic workers, an au pair, a personal assistant and a tutor. She also needs to replace a luxury vehicle that was repossessed by a bank in July last year because she could no longer afford the instalments.

Her total reasonable monthly expenses are just short of R169,000 a month, excluding educational expenses.

She asks that the court order that the primary place of residence for the children be with her, but that it also order that her husband maintain regular and unlimited contact with them.

When asked about the application and the allegations related to the former president's financial status, her husband's lawyer said he was not aware that divorce papers had been filed in court. "I can't comment on something that I haven't seen."

Hloni Motloung, a spokesperson for the hotel, said that "as a hotel we don't get involved in family matters".

Nora Fakude Nkuna, the head of Buscor, denied that the former president had shares in the company. "He was never a shareholder nor a part of Buscor."

- Additional reporting by Suthentira Govender


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