By Zelda Venter2h ago
Pretoria – A bitter legal tussle stretching over a number of years between the customary wife of a dead man and a woman who claimed to be his live-in wife over his inheritance came to a head when the court concluded that the latter was simply his girlfriend and not a beneficiary to his estate.
Gauteng High Court, Pretoria Judge Natvarlal Ranchod only referred to the parties by their initials in his judgment, as a matrimonial dispute was at stake.
The woman to be proclaimed a girlfriend instituted the legal proceedings as the applicant, against the dead mans customary wife, from whom he never divorced.
The applicant said she had spent more than a decade in a relationship with the dead man and that he had called her his wife at all times.
The respondent, in turn, said while she and the dead had split up some years before his death in 2008, she had no knowledge of the applicant being his wife. She was being sued in her capacity as the appointed executrix of the dead mans estate.
The applicant said as she had fulfilled her wifely duties at all times, and had escorted her husband to social gatherings and was thus seen as his wife, she was entitled to the bulk of his estate.
Besides, she told the court, she had contributed to their mutual estate for 13 years while her husband was still alive.
The applicant said she and the dead man started dating in 1993, moved in together during 1995, and started living together as husband and wife.
She was a nurse at the time while he was a taxi operator. She said while they discussed marriage from time to time, they at the end agreed to only live together.
She assisted the man by attending taxi meetings and they attended social functions together, where they were introduced as a couple and the dead referred to her as his wife.
She looked after the man when he was sick, cared for him and paid for his funeral expenses.
The applicant said she knew nothing about him being married before, other than that he had paid lobola for someone.
The woman claimed that when they moved into the house, the man had no plates to eat out of, knives or forks to eat with, no chairs to sit on and no table to sit at. In fact, she claimed, he only owned a bedroom suite and a sofa and that with her help, they had made the house a home and built up the taxi business.
The defendant testified that she and the man got married in 1981. The marriage was discussed between the elders and lobola was paid to marry her.
The woman in her sixties, said they had a celebration, a sheep was slaughtered and she was handed over as the bride to the man.
She and the dead man built a six-roomed house in the North West and a double garage on the land for the taxis.
She herself made the bricks for the house to be built (she described them as mampara bricks). Her income and the mans earnings were used to build the house. She helped him build his taxi business and lived with him for 12 years. When she left, she took nothing with her.
The couple never had children.
After his death she moved back to the house in which they had originally stayed, which she said still had all its furniture and cutlery which they had accumulated while they lived together.
Judge Ranchod said there were a number of reasons to doubt the reliability of the version of the plaintiff, as she was unable to explain several inconsistencies as to why everything was in his name.
He also frowned upon her evidence that he had nothing in the house when she moved in.
The most probable explanation is that the plaintiff was the deceaseds girlfriend and nothing more, he said in turning down her application.
By Zelda Venter2h ago