Pretoria - University of Pretoria professor Eben Maré has turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to declare his adoption null and void, more than 51 years after he was adopted one day after his birth in 1966.
If this is successful, it will pave the way for Maré, a maths professor and Absa senior official, to inherit from his biological father, Pieter Bezuidenhout, who died in 2016 after he was murdered in the driveway of his home in Pretoria.
Bezuidenhout, 67, owner of the company Bus Rentals, has left an estate worth more than R50 million. However, he died intestate as he never had a will.
Maré said it was not about the money, but he felt that as one of Bezuidenhout’s five biological children, he should inherit as well. “Fair is fair and why should I not inherit, simply because I was adopted?” he told the Pretoria News.
He claimed that his biological mother, Sophia le Roux, was forced into giving him up a day after his birth. This, he claimed, rendered his adoption in terms of the law illegal and of no force.
Le Roux, who fell pregnant when she was 17, was never married to Bezuidenhout. As having an illegitimate child in those days were unheard of, she was forced to give up her son.
Maré said his adoptive parents, Johannes and Eugene Maré, who are now both in their 80s, had not told him that he was adopted, but he found out about it in 2012.
He subsequently located his biological parents. “I started to know my father four years prior to his death and we had a good relationship. My first words to my father, when I met him, were not: ‘Am I in your will?' But he also never told me during our time together that he did not want me to inherit. I am his son and it is only fair that I inherit.”
Apart from Maré, Bezuidenhout has four other children, who stand to inherit from his estate.
One of the siblings, Conan Devy, meanwhile, obtained permission from the court to enter the fray in this unusual legal battle.
Devy is opposed to Maré’s application and said he was not entitled to share in Bezuidenhout’s fortunes. According to him, the main purpose of Maré’s application to have his adoption overturned was so that he could inherit. He added that as things stood, the estate would be divided into four equal shares, between himself and his siblings.
He disputed Maré’s claim that, as his biological mother was forced to give him up, it made his adoption null and void and thus, in turn, entitled him to inherit.
Devy said Maré and his biological mother, who is assisting him in his application, “are making a quantum leap” with this allegation, as the adoption must first be set aside before Maré could be entitled to inherit from the deceased.
Maré’s lawyer, Gerald Maree, said the Children’s Act of 1960 made it clear that a child could not be given up under duress. As this was the case here, Maré’s adoption was thus of no force and he stood to inherit from his father, he said.
They also have the alternative of attacking the Intestate Succession Act, which stipulated that an adoptive child could not inherit from his or her biological parent if the latter had died without a will.
Maree said that as they were taking a constitutional point, this case would probably end up in the highest court in the country.
“My client is not a money grabber; it’s all about principle,” he said. He could not say at this stage how big the estate was, but it was estimated at well over R50m.
Maré, meanwhile, said this was not about him, but about his children and grandchildren.
“No money will bring him back. But what is right is right. The question is not about me inheriting, but rather why my father’s killers have never been caught.”