Pretoria – A wealthy Cape Town medical specialist may find himself behind bars for two months if he does not pay his ex-wife more than R1.5 million in maintenance arrears by this time next month.
Judge PAL Gamble further ordered the husband pay his ex-wife the monthly amount of R69 384.48 for her expenses (they do not have children) or he could also find himself in jail for contempt of court.
The husband, who is only identified by his initials in court papers as it is a maintenance dispute, entered into a settlement with his wife in 2013 when they got divorced.
It was the second marriage for both, and they had been married for 14 years.
In terms of the settlement, he agreed to pay her a monthly sum of R52 000, and agreed this amount would escalate yearly.
By the time the wife, 62, turned to court, the amount was set at R69 348.48.
At the time of the divorce, the husband said he would ensure his wife had a comfortable lifestyle through his maintenance for as long as she did not remarry or cohabit.
But as time went by, the amount became less and less, and by May this year, he had only paid her R10 000.
According to the husband, he could no longer afford to keep her in luxury. He told the court he assumed she would be reasonable about it and not turn to the legal route.
Over the past few months he wrote several messages to her in which he said it was high time that she found someone who could take care of her.
He also accused her of being lazy and lying on the couch all day long, and spending his money.
The judge remarked the husband was a keen user of the WhatsApp social media tool and his correspondence with the wife revealed he had been griping about having to maintain her for many years.
He said he was no longer prepared to pay what he considered to be a “ridiculous” sum for maintenance.
He said he could not afford it, his practice was failing and he wished to sever all connection with the applicant, suggesting a capital payment in settlement of his maintenance obligation might be worthy of consideration.
In other posts he accused her of “loafing around on her couch all day” and suggested she rather go out and find a job.
He referred to her lawyer as “rubbish” and said while she was a “parasite”, both she and her lawyer were greedy.
The husband told the court he was cash-strapped and had to “rob Peter to pay Paul”.
His financial statements were submitted to court, and the husband said most of the assets belonged to the company in whose name his practice was registered, as well as to various trusts.
These amounts reflected millions, as well as the value of various properties which he owned.
But, the husband said, as it was not in his name, it was not his money.
The judge frowned on this, as well as the fact that more than R13m had been paid from his bank account into that of his son from a first marriage.
The judge also did not take kindly to the husband’s attitude towards the ex-wife and his name-calling of her lawyer.
“It must be said that the respondent (husband) has shamelessly attempted to bully the applicant into submission through reducing her financial lifeline, knowing full well that as an unemployed woman who is presently 62 years of age she is entirely dependent on him for her livelihood ...
“In the process, the respondent has insulted and belittled the applicant and her legal representatives and even taken a swipe at this court,” the judge said.