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Cape Town - A Western Cape judge has made a Namibian farmer pay dearly – to the tune of more than R6 million – for dumping his fiancée of a decade, downplaying the role she played in building up his businesses, and suggesting she had illegally occupied his posh Plattekloof house.
After 10 years together, the court heard, Andries Maritz dumped Elsie Cloete in March 2009, and by December that same year had married someone else.
Now, however, Judge Robert Henney has ordered that Maritz compensate Cloete to the tune of R6.166m within 30 days. And if he doesn’t, the Plattekloof house in question could be attached.
The pair got together in 1994, and began living together, according to court papers. A few years later, they agreed to marry and, in February 1999, became engaged.
Throughout their relationship, Maritz and Cloete started various business ventures, both here and in Namibia. According to Cloete, she invested much of her time in the businesses, including a farm in Oranjemund, because Maritz had a full-time job.
They bought the house in Plattekloof in 2001 as an investment, and discussed turning it into a guesthouse with the intention of eventually retiring there. The house was registered in Maritz’s name.
But it was in that house in March 2009 that Maritz broke the news that he had someone new in his life, and never wanted to see Cloete again.
She moved into the house in Plattekloof because she had nowhere else to go, she said.
The court heard that Cloete later wrote a letter in which she told Maritz she had nothing to her name, even though she had worked hard to build up their businesses.
In the court action, Cloete claimed that a universal partnership existed between them, and requested a 50 percent share of the value of the assets. In addition, she claimed R25 000 for his breach of promise to marry her.
Maritz disputed that there was a legally enforceable engagement, or that a universal partnership existed. He claimed the decision to end the relationship was mutual.
He argued that they signed an antenuptial contract before their intended marriage, and said this was an indication that they never intended to form a universal partnership.
He also claimed Cloete occupied the Plattekloof house unlawfully.
In a judgment delivered earlier this month, Judge Henney said Cloete gave a detailed account of the relationship, and presented the court with supporting documents.
“She came across as an honest and genuine person, who did not contribute to and assist (Maritz) purely to gain financially, but because of her deep love, affection, admiration and loyalty she had for him. It was clear it was never her intention, when she entered into the relationship with (Maritz), to gain financially from it.
“The impression created was that she was the submissive and the caring partner who at all times acted in (his) best interests,” the judge said.
Maritz, on the other hand, tried to downplay Cloete’s involvement, and diminish her contribution to that of an ordinary worker.
Judge Henney said in light of the relationship and Cloete’s “inextricable” involvement in the businesses, the only conclusion was that a universal partnership had existed. He ordered Maritz to pay Cloete R6.166m, which constitutes a 50 percent share in the universal partnership, as well as R25 000 for breach of promise.
Maritz was also ordered to pay costs.