no end in sight AS two wives fight OVER house

Alex Matlala

Alex Matlala

The house of a Limpopo miner who died last month of tuberculosis is at the centre of a dispute between the deceased's widows.

A bitter dispute to determine the legitimate owner of house 2140 at Maswikeng in Namakgale, near the Kruger National Park, is unfolding between the women's lawyers.

Two women, Jane Mohlala, 48, and Elisabeth Sebopela, 58, are at each other's throats, claiming ownership of the same house.

Both women were married under customary law to the dead man and are both in possession of marriage certificates from the traditional authority.

Piet Sebopela, 67, married Elisabeth in 1972 before he acquired the house from the Palaborwa Mining Company where he worked as a miner.

According to mine management practice then, only married men were awarded houses, and his first wife's name (Elisabeth) was linked to the ownership of the house.

Sebopelalater bought the house in 1990 from the mine and stayed there with Elisabeth until he met Jane in 1991.

Jane soon left her own house in Mandela village in Namakgale, and moved in with Sebopela, while the first wife, Elisabeth, stayed in Sekhukhune with their eight children.

In December 1992 Sebopela and Jane acquired a marriage certificate from the Moletela Traditional Authority in Acornhoek, making her the second wife.

According to Jane's lawyer, Topsy Thete, a man can marry as many wives as he likes, depending on the size of his wallet, as stipulated in the Intestate Succession Act.

He said his client was equally a wife to the late Sebopela.

Thete said according to the law, the deceased's house and his other assets belonged to all the wives.

On the other hand, Elisabeth's lawyer, Elphus Seemela, said he has a strong case because the house was awarded to Sebopela while he lived with Elisabeth.

Seemela said when the house was awarded to Sebopela, his client's name was also attached to the document conferring the property to the deceased, making her the joint owner, and he has documents to prove it.

Seemela also said Elisabeth has a letter from the master of the high court in Polokwane appointing her to administer the estate as the executrix.

He said he was baffled that the "mistress" was still living in the house in spite of the fact that they had showed her the court letter.

Seemela added that Jane was in contempt of court by continuing to live in the house.

He said he was helping his client to enforce the court order.