Pretoria - A judge has endorsed the Mosotho culture that says that it is the duty of a son to support his mother when he starts to earn an income.
The court ordered the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to compensate her for loss of support following the death of her son.
The mother turned to the High Court in Bloemfontein, where she claimed nearly R489 000 from the RAF for loss of support after her son died in a car crash.
The mother is a 61-year-old unmarried pensioner, and the deceased was her second son.
The mother resides in an old and dilapidated brick house in Ladybrand, for which she has no title deed. Her eldest son, with whom she does not have much contact, only recently got a job. She last saw the father of the children during or about 1999/2000.
When her son died, she earned an average of R900 a month as a domestic worker. It was not enough to make ends meet and her son helped her.
The mother relied on the Mosotho custom for his duty of support.
Under the custom, children had to maintain their parents if their parents were unemployed. Children knew that they had to support their parents as soon as they themselves secured employment, she told the court.
At the time of his death, her son had worked as a salesman at the Nissan motor dealership in Bloemfontein.
He had played for the Free State under 25 cricket team and received allowances from the cricket games. He had shared that with her, an amount of approximately R1 000, on occasion, she said.
The mother told the court that her son had visited her at the end of each month and bought groceries, such as maize, bread flour and rice, to the value of about R1 000. He also used to give her R2 500 a month.
With the R2 500 and the R900 or so a month that she earned, she paid for transport, prepaid electricity, clothing, medication and, sometimes, consultations at doctors.
When she could, she would set aside about R300 a month for emergencies.
She testified that it was not easy to obtain employment in Ladybrand. She suffers from high blood pressure since the death of her son for which she uses prescription medication. She also has no policies in her name.
The woman said her eldest son did not assist her with maintenance. She had not yet had the discussion regarding the obligation to maintain her with the eldest son, she said, as she had not seen him recently.
The woman said she was no longer employed as a domestic worker and her only income was her social grant.
She testified that she needed about R4 000 a month to cover her expenses which included electricity and R1 500 for groceries – bills her son had paid.
He did not have a pension fund when he passed away and she received nothing from his employer or any other source after his death.
Both documents were handed in as admissible evidence by agreement between the parties.
The RAF did not dispute that it is a Mosotho custom for a son to support his mother. Acting Judge PR Cronje said that was also in line with principles in respect of a duty to support in the common law.
“Over and above that, our law recognises a contractual undertaking to support,” the judge said.
The judge noted that looking at the facts, the deceased contributed and would, on probabilities, have continued to contribute, at least in terms of custom, if not contractually, towards a need that his mother had and still had after his death – to pay the bills and make ends meet.
The judge said her income and expenses proved that she was in need of support.
“She does not need to show that she lives in abject poverty,” the judge said.
He found that the fact that her son had a duty to support her, now resided in the RAF.
The court referred her claim for loss of support to actuaries to calculate how much she should receive from the RAF.