Cape Town - The relationship between the families of slain music icon Taliep Petersen and his jailed widow Najwa Petersen is riven with so much tension that now the multimillion-rand life insurance he left for their only daughter looks set to be moved to the jurisdiction of the Master of the High Court.
The friction, a report before the Western Cape High Court suggests, is so severe that the two sides cannot work together to ensure that the R5.3 million, paid into a trust founded by Taliep’s brother Igshaan Petersen, is properly administered.
The tussle over Taliep’s cash was first highlighted by Weekend Argus late last year when Sulaiman Effendi, brother of 14-year-old beneficiary Zaynab Petersen, asked the court to appoint a curator to investigate the circumstances of the payment of the proceeds of the policy to the Blue Bird Trust, founded by Igshaan Petersen.
Now the curator, advocate Fred Sievers, has declared that it is “clear that the current situation cannot continue to prevail”.
It was also clear, he said, that the two sides of the family would “never be able to work together in administering a trust”.
Sievers submitted the 13-page report, together with a host of annexures, to the high court about a week ago.
He had been appointed to investigate after the application by Effendi, born of a previous marriage of his mother, Najwa Petersen.
Effendi lodged the application at the request of his imprisoned mother.
In the application it emerged that Najwa Petersen, with the assistance of an official in the office of the inspecting judge of prisons, and independent insurance broker Rafiek Saville, established a year ago that Liberty Life had paid the R5.3m to the trust.
She asked her son to find out about the circumstances surrounding the payment, prompting him to appoint attorney Ighsaan Sadien to look into the matter.
Sadien searched the records at the office of the Master of the High Court, and established that the trust was founded by Igshaan Petersen, who was also a trustee, together with accountant Suleiman September and a company called Iprotect Trustees.
According to the deed of trust, the beneficiaries were Zaynab, her descendants, any trust established for her and, in the event that any of those beneficiaries ceased to exist, or their benefits were repudiated, her siblings.
Should Taliep’s brother cease to be a trustee, Nasief Groenmeyer – the husband of Taliep’s sister Ma’atoema – would be appointed in his place.
Effendi, however, expressed concern at certain clauses in the deed of trust, saying that Sadien had also discovered that a property in Lansdowne had been transferred into the name of the trust. The property had been bought for R1.125m with the proceeds of a Nedbank loan.
It is occupied by Taliep’s children from his first wife.
The court appointed Sievers last August and when he consulted Najwa Petersen in prison, she told him the trustees had never informed her either of the existence of the trust, or the fact that the money had been paid to it.
“She advised that, while she had no difficulty with the concept of a trust, the secrecy in the setting up of the trust, the lack of transparency in its dealings and her lack of input into who should be the trustees, concerned her.
She furthermore felt that the powers of the trustees were too wide and she believed that the trustees had acted improperly in not advising interested parties of the existence of the trust,” Sievers said.
According to the report, Najwa Petersen claimed that her late husband’s family had not shown any interest in Zaynab prior to the establishment of the trust.
Zaynab has been in Effendi’s care since June 2007, when their mother was first arrested. Effendi raised similar concerns when he spoke to Sievers.
From consultations with the trustees, it emerged that Igshaan Petersen met a Liberty Life official as far back as 2010. The official advised him that the trust be set up so that Zaynab’s benefit could be paid out.
Explaining the fact that the Lansdowne property was bought, Igshaan Petersen told Sievers it was envisaged that Zaynab would live there with Taliep’s other children.
However, since Najwa Petersen objected to such an arrangement, it was decided that Taliep’s relatives currently living there would instead pay monthly rental to the trust.
Discussing the options, Sievers said that either independent trustees or a curator to Zaynab should be appointed. Since these came at a cost, an alternative solution, likely to be safest and the least expensive, would be to terminate the trust and pay the proceeds into the Guardian’s Fund, under management of the Master of the High Court.
The court will now have to decide the way forward.
Najwa Petersen, who was convicted of her husband’s murder in 2008, is serving an effective 28 years behind bars.