BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A Zimbabwean woman based in South Africa has won R10 Million maintenance from the estate of her late partner with whom she was cohabitating for two years.
This is after that country’s Constitutional Court ruled that such relationships were a legitimate family structure, and deserved respect and recognition under the law.
Court documents show that Jane Bwanya met her late South African partner Anthony Ruch in 2014. He passed away on April 23, 2016, two months before he was scheduled to travel to Zimbabwe to pay lobola.
At the time of his death, the deceased was 57 years old and never been married.
He had a will but the heiress was his mother Lorna Ruch who passed away intestate in 2013. Anthony was his mothers’ sole heir having been the only child.
Bwanya made a claim for maintenance at the courts in that country where she sought an order declaring the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 (ISA) and the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990 (MOSSA) unconstitutional.
Under the ISA and MOSSA, Bwanya did not deserve any spousal maintenance from her deceased partner as they were not married, and did not have any children.
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But Bwanya, represented by the Women’s Legal Centre Trust and the Commission for Gender Equality argued that she deserved maintenance arguing Anthony had committed to a life-long relationship.
She kept a diary of Anthony’s promises to wed her, and have her as a lifelong partner. The diary was produced in court as evidence.
“Bwanya submitted that she and the deceased contemplated having a baby together. This aspect of her testimony was corroborated by an entry dated October 15, 2015 in the deceased’s diary about “cementing their relationship with a baby,” court papers read.
The ConCourt awarded Bwanya: “a claim of R6 734 964-36 against the estate of the deceased’s mother, Mrs Ruch, in respect of the value of the immovable property commonly known as 60 Rottingdean Road, Camps Bay which had been sold by the Executor of the deceased’s estate.
“A further claim of R2 570 000 in respect of the value of the Seaways Flat located at 31 Beach Road, Mouille Point which was sold prior to the deceased’s death but finalised after his death. The deceased’s various financial investments worth R1 million comprising, inter alia, a PSG Investment, an Old Mutual Investment and cash in an FNB Account.”
The ConCourt gave the South African Parliament 18 months to make the necessary amendments to the ISA and MOSSA to ensure that surviving partners receive a share from their deceased lover’s estates.
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