Court throws book at rich defaulting dad
Criminal conviction for man who cast his family into poverty
● While a top Durban businessman was living the high life, his ex-wife and two children were in abject poverty, resorting to making a fire in the lounge to keep warm and cook.
These are some of the details that have emerged in a landmark case in which the businessman has been convicted in a criminal court of failing to pay more than R1-million in spousal and child maintenance from August 2012 — when the couple divorced — to May 2016 when his ex-wife laid charges against him.
In a victim-impact statement, the woman, who now lives in Gauteng, detailed their fall from the lap of luxury — living off a thriving multimillion-rand business — to being down and out and having to pull the children out of school after he stopped paying maintenance.
“There were days we simply did not eat. In spite of a high court order, we lived for nine months without electricity . . . we would sit around the fire and pretend we were camping.
“We would boil the swimming pool water and we would have a turn in showering in a bucket. He sold my car and we had no medical assistance. At the age of 60, I have nothing. My health has suffered beyond repair, my children [who were in their early teens when the legal battle began] are uneducated and the glimmer of hope to rebuild my life is nothing but a glimmer.”
Now the state is asking that the man, a director of a chain of restaurants, go to jail and for some of his substantial assets — which the court found he had “hidden” in his efforts to claim he could not afford to pay what he owed to his ex-wife — be attached.
Most matters dealing with maintenance defaulters are referred for alternative dispute resolution. This case, however, proceeded to trial and the man was convicted in the
There were days we simply did not eat. We lived for months without electricity Ex-wife of wealthy maintenance defaulter
Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court earlier this year. Sentencing proceedings before magistrate Abdul Khan are ongoing. The maximum penalty is three years’ imprisonment.
In the meantime, Khan ordered that no money or assets be transferred out of the man’s business.
The court heard that the couple married in 1992. She was debt free and he arrived with his worldly possessions in “two bags”.
They started the business with her money and it did “exceptionally well”. But the marriage floundered and in their divorce settlement, which took three years to finalise, he was ordered to pay his ex-wife R24 000 a month for five years (R1.4-million) to enable her to get back on her feet, and R10 000 a month to her for the children.
The businessman defaulted after three months.
At the start of the trial, he pleaded not guilty, saying he could not afford to pay.
The wife said up until their divorce they lived a comfortable life with the income from the business that owned the restaurant franchise. They also had a separate business that supplied sauces and branded items to the franchisees. The businesses had an annual turnover of about R9-million before the divorce.
The man testified that the businesses had gone through a tough time in later years, and had been bailed out by his new fiancée who now effectively employed him. She was not prepared to assist him in paying maintenance, he said.
The magistrate rejected this: “Effectively the business was sold for no value . . . this court is convinced the accused is effectively the owner of the business and his fiancée is just his nominee.”
Khan said the man had “wilfully engineered” a way out of paying what he was legally obliged to pay. The transfer of the business was a smokescreen to allow him to live a luxurious life, while “pushing” his exwife and children “into poverty”.