A father has been declared a vexatious litigant and barred from instituting any further applications against his former wife without the approval of a judge. Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) Judge Mashudu Munzhelele also ordered that if the man wished to litigate further on any matter, he must first pay the cost orders granted against him in four matters which, thus far, he had failed to pay, GroundUp reports. And he was ordered to put up R120 000 in security for a pending matter involving the custody of the couple’s children. Munzhelele ordered him to pay punitive costs in the application brought by his former wife to declare him a vexatious litigant.
The couple divorced in 2014 but then got married again the following year. But soon afterwards the wife obtained a protection order. Over the next six months, the husband brought four High Court applications attempting to overturn the order, all of which were either dismissed or struck from the roll with orders that he pay the costs. He launched a total of eight applications, including an application for the return of moveable property, an application to remove her from a business, and an application to remove her name as the owner of the property in which they lived. He also initiated divorce proceedings which she opposed. In April 2016, the woman was served two mysterious court orders: an interim order setting aside the protection order and a divorce order, incorporating a variation of parental rights which had been ostensibly granted in March that year. The woman was unaware the divorce had even been set down for hearing. She launched an urgent application and Judge Sulet Potterill rescinded the mysterious divorce order and reinstated the protection order. The couple did eventually finalize their divorce in September 2019, with a settlement agreement stipulating arrangements for shared residence of the children. In December, the man was back at court asking for an order terminating his ex-wife’s parental rights and responsibilities, alleging she ‘did not care’ because one of their children had attended school after a fellow learner had contracted Covid-19.
The former wife then launched vexatious litigation proceedings, the GroundUp report says. Munzhelele said in order to declare him a vexatious litigant, the legislation required proof, on a balance of probabilities, that he had persistently instituted legal proceedings without reasonable grounds. She said while the man had been justified in initially opposing the protection order, what followed was an ‘abuse of the legal system for his own ends without any merits’. She said it was unknown who granted the mysterious interim order against the protection order rescinded by Potterill, who had referred the matter for investigation because it had been ‘improperly obtained’. ‘The flagrant disregard to pay costs is in my view a significant element of vexatiousness.’ She said while the right to access to courts was protected by the Constitution, that right could be limited and ‘the applicant should be protected from this abusive litigation aimed at punishing her and depleting her finances’.