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Court orders substantial maintenance payment to wife pending divorce action

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
The Johannesburg high court was not impressed by the failure of a husband in the middle of divorce proceedings to disclose all his income, including bank accounts in the US and the UK.
The Johannesburg high court was not impressed by the failure of a husband in the middle of divorce proceedings to disclose all his income, including bank accounts in the US and the UK.

The high court in Johannesburg has ordered a businessman to pay his wife, who he is in the midst of a divorce action against, R80,000 monthly maintenance while the divorce action is ongoing.

The 54-year-old woman, who described herself as a housewife, instituted a divorce action against her husband, who had left their palatial matrimonial home in Houghton in September 2020. She instigated the divorce proceedings the next year. 

The woman asked for an order, pending divorce action, appointing a psychologist to conduct an investigation into the best interests of their 16-year-old son and that the psychologist be paid by the husband. The court also granted that order.

She also claimed for interim spousal maintenance of R95,000 and a contribution towards her legal costs.

The husband initially tendered to pay spousal maintenance of R40,000 and made no tender towards her legal costs. On the second day of the hearing in January this year the husband increased the monthly cash contribution to R60,000 and tendered a contribution of R3.1m towards her legal costs.

The couple married in March 1994 out of community of property with accrual.

Three children were born of the marriage. Two have reached adulthood but the 16-year-old son lived with the woman at the matrimonial home until October 2021, when he – without prior discussion with his mother – went to live with his father, who currently stays in an exclusive Houghton apartment.

The woman also issued action against her husband in his capacity as a representative of trusts, one in South Africa and others in the British Virgin Islands. These trusts hold assets worth hundreds of millions of rand.

The court heard that the couple lived a life of extravagance and luxury and said the description of their lifestyle provided by their 16-year-old son had said it all: “We’ve lived like the richest people in the world.”

The former matrimonial home in Johannesburg had been described by the husband as “palatial”. The husband said the home was beautifully renovated with expensive furnishings, mostly paid for by the companies owned by the trusts.

“To mention but a few of the luxurious furnishings, a diamond bathtub imported from the United Arab Emirates and valued at $17,797 (about R317,000) was installed in the en suite bathroom and a crystal chandelier valued at R54,772 was installed above the staircase,” the husband said.

“Clearly no expense was spared,” acting judge Ciska Bezuidenhout said. 

She said even after the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage the man and the children had continued to live a lavish lifestyle, which included holidaying in Zanzibar and the US in mid-2021, renting two apartments in 2021, one for himself at R60,000 a month and one for his second child and her boyfriend at R33,000 a month.

It was submitted on the man’s behalf that when subtracting his monthly expenses he had experienced a shortfall of about R44,000 a month, which would be covered by loans.

The court was not satisfied with this explanation and said the man had not disclosed all his bank accounts, some of them in the US and UK.

The court said the man had alleged that he had obtained loans from time to time from entities owned by the trusts to supplement his income and to provide for the family’s expenses and that they had totaled R25m in December 2020.

“These loans have since increased to R31.9m without any explanation for the increase or why the directors of the companies who have loaned money to him permit such loans or how the loans are going to be repaid or what the terms of the loans are, including interest.”

In addition, the court ordered him to pay medical aid premiums to retain his wife on his medical aid. He was also ordered to pay levies, rates and all other imposts, including water and electricity in respect of the property registered in her name in Clifton, Cape Town.

He was also ordered to pay insurance premiums for a BMW X5 and a Mini Cooper and the reasonable costs for the maintenance and repair of the vehicles and their licensing.

The man was also ordered to pay R4.5m towards her legal costs.


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