By Zelda Venter
High Court Reporter
A bitter family feud is being waged in the Pretoria High Court, with the youngest daughter of world-renowned rooibos tea businesswoman, Dr Annique Theron, pitted against her mother and three siblings.
Lorinda Theron, who claims she is the "black sheep" of the family, said her mother, together with her sister Suzette Ferreira and brothers Marius and Schalk Theron, are side-stepping the stipulations of her late father's will to sideline her.
Ironically, Lorinda was the reason why the 81-year-old formidable Dr Theron became world renowned with her rooibos products.
As a baby, Lorinda suffered from colic and her mother, back in the late 1960ss, discovered the healing properties of this herbal tea when she gave it to her baby in various forms.
Lorinda was in court referred to by her advocate, Johan Brand, as the "rooibos baby". He said Dr Theron's multi-million rand empire flourished ever since.
Dr Theron's husband, Hendrik Meiring Theron, died in 1990 and he and his wife's assets were combined in one communal estate.
The will read that their four children would inherit equal parts in the capital assets, including in the company they owned at the time, Forever Young Ltd.
The assets formed part of a trust - the HM Theron Trust - of which Dr Theron and her son Schalk were the trustees. They had a duty to run the trust in a way that would be advantageous to the beneficiaries (all the children).
The court was told that the membership interests in Forever Young were later sold to Manna Forever Trust and the main business of Forever Young was sold to Annique Skin Care in 2006.
Annique Skin Care is a company and the only shareholders are Lorinda's siblings, Brand told Acting Judge Stanley Sapire.
It is claimed that it was sold without the consent of any of the HM Theron Trust's capital beneficiaries.
Dr Theron issued herself 102 preferential shares to keep control of Forever Young Ltd, it is claimed.
After selling the business to Annique Skin Care, a dividend of R14-million was paid over to Manna Forever Trust.
Brand said each child received R1m, while Dr Theron took R10m, which she used to establish yet another trust - Forever Theron Trust. Dr Theron was the main capital beneficiary of this trust.
Her youngest daughter is now complaining that this was done to side-step the stipulations of her father's will and to ensure only her three siblings would eventually inherit the family fortunes.
She complained that her mother, by changing the stipulations of the will and forming new companies and trusts, was causing her (Lorinda) to lose her inheritance.
Lorinda is asking for an array of orders, including that her mother and brother be removed as trustees of both the Manna Forever Trust and the HM Theron Trust, as they are at present in a position to do as they wish.
She wants to see the financial and other records of these trusts and also wants an interdict against her mother and siblings to prevent them from selling any assets in the trusts and businesses until the whole matter has been resolved.
Dr Theron and her three children are denying any wrongdoing.
Their Advocate, Freek Terblanche SC, said the 81-year-old widow was the driving force behind the family business which forms the subject of this feud.
He said the applicant (the daughter) was unhappy with the way the family business is being run.
"She is accusing her grey old mother and her brothers and sister left, right and centre of fraud and all kinds of inappropriate conduct. She is asking the court for a menu of orders against them," he argued.
Dr Theron and her children fully had the right to run the businesses, he said, but there were a number of disputes of facts, which could not be resolved on court papers.
There was nothing to suggest they were side-stepping the stipulations of the will. He accused the applicant of making false accusations in "an application which is doomed to fail".