A Soweto husband, who was described as abusive and said to have treated his wife with little respect and his children with absolute disdain, had to forfeit half of his wife’s R7 million pension during their divorce.
The wife, who used to work as a nurse, approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to get a divorce after almost 40 years of marriage.
She wanted the husband to keep their matrimonial home but not get anything from her pension fund. He stood to benefit approximately R3.7 million.
The husband inherited a house from his parents just after they got married, and the wife said he could also keep it.
The couple got married in 1983 but had been living separately for more than 13 years.
In her evidence, the wife said she suffered verbal, psychological, and emotional abuse during her marriage.
She said she carried most of the financial weight even when the husband was still working because he spent most, if not all, of his salary on his church, where he was an ordained pastor.
She said she had to pay for food and other household necessities, including the children’s school fees and their spending.
They had four children, who are now all adults.
When the husband was retrenched and got R118,000 from the retrenchment package, he settled about R43,000 on their bond. Other than that, he made very little contribution to the joint estate.
In 2010, the wife suffered a heart attack, which she believes was a direct result of the stress and abuse she was subjected to in her marriage.
During her subsequent hospitalisation, she received no support from her husband, who, according to her, in fact mocked her and implied that she was not really sick.
This was the final straw; shortly after her discharge from hospital, she decided to leave her husband and the matrimonial home with the children.
After the wife left the matrimonial home, the husband refused to maintain and support their last born, who was still a minor then and still at school. He also refused point-blank to allow the wife to return to the matrimonial home and made her ‘fend for herself.’
To support her case, she called their children to testify about their father’s conduct.
The youngest child, their son, said it was surprising that his mother had stayed in the marriage for so long.
Their eldest daughter told the court that their father used to beat her up with a sjambok when she was growing up. He often told her that she was not his child, implying that the mother had conceived her with another man.
Their evidence was uncontested because the father refused to have his lawyers cross-examine the children. He said he would not allow them to be subjected to the indignity of cross-examination in a fight between himself and his wife.
He said it was “in bad taste” that his wife involved their children in their fray.
He denied being a bad husband and insisted that there should be a division of the joint estate, including the wife’s pension.
Upon reviewing the evidence, Judge Leicester Adams said there was substantial misconduct on the part of the husband during the subsistence of the marriage, and he lacked a meaningful contribution to the joint estate.
“I am of the view that such a benefit receivable by the defendant would be undue. Accordingly, he cannot be allowed to unduly benefit from the marriage in community of property, and forfeiture should be ordered.”
The judge said the husband can keep both properties, but he’s not getting anything from the pension fund.