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Family: Judge picks out magistrate in 'toxic' divorce action

A pre-divorce maintenance fight between a magistrate and his police captain wife reached such toxic levels that a Western Cape High Court judge implored them to rather put their energy into finalising their split. A News24 report says Judge Babalwa Mantame repeated her previous message to angry divorcing couples – get it done without long, drawn-out fights. But in this instance, Mantame had harsh words for the magistrate, saying he should know better. She said on one occasion, he had initially refused to accept a domestic violence order his estranged wife attempted to have served on him. ‘Even if this court were to accept that (his wife) is litigating at a grand scale, when the call was made by the judges of this court to put an end to this acrimony by means of settlement of the divorce, the respondent, as a judicial officer, should have been a sounding board in this dispute and made sure that the whole dispute is settled rather than fuelling it.’

Mantame also questioned why he was paying R18 000 a month in groceries to feed his three adult children who live with him. Two have university degrees and are working. ‘Surely, he could request that they contribute towards their upkeep (food, water and electricity, etc.) rather than paying for groceries for R18 452 per month alone,’ the judge said. ‘That amount is very high given the fact that all three adults go to work during the week.’ Mantame said other judges hearing the couple's applications before this latest one had already told them to get on with finalising the divorce. The couple had even filed separate divorce applications in different courts, making the judges decide which application should stand down. ‘However, it seems all these attempts were in vain as no party is prepared to bow down,’ said Mantame.

The heart of this application is the police captain applying for R10 200 maintenance from her husband pending their divorce, and R250 000 for legal fees, notes the News24 report. But Mantame found he had a spare R12 000 per month because he was no longer paying academic fees for their younger daughter. The judge ordered him to pay R5 500 per month to his wife towards maintenance,and made him liable for 75% of the legal costs – R187 500 in instalments of R7 000 per month to her attorneys' trust account – and to pay the costs of the latest application. Mantame urged them to finalise their divorce. She added: ‘As said earlier, this is a matter that is capable of being settled. However, the parties are hell-bent on tiring each other with litigation that is completely unnecessary.’

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