Families prepare to mend strained relations

A 10-year court battle over inheritance worth millions that pitted together two closely-related families has finally come to an end.

The warring families of Masenya and Pandor who have been ripping each other apart in court over the estate of the deceased wealthy couple - Abdull and Doreen Joseph - have decided to settle out of court.

The court order that was given this month reveals that the families have agreed that they will share the estate of Joseph equally amongst themselves.

Doreen and Abdull, who died in 2008 and 2012 respectively, were parents of Yolinda Masenya and Shereen Pandor. Their other daughter, Yolinda, had long died in 2002, survived by both her parents and sister Shereen.

Shortly after Abdull died in 2012, the current Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Annah Mokgethi - in her capacity as Abdull’s lawyer and executrix - revealed to the two families that the entire estate of the deceased would be given to Shereen and her children as stipulated by Abdul’s Will that was signed in 2010.

This did not sit well with Yolinda’s children, Dawn, Theo and Renee Masenya. They questioned the validity of the Will until they decided to take the matter to court in 2013, believing strongly that the Will, which was read to them, might have been forged or tempered with. Their view was that there is no how their grandfather would have excluded them from his Will.

Court documents cited Dawn as the applicant, while Shereen (aunt to the Masenyas) and her children Deon and Wendy Joseph, Abdul and Nadin Pandor were respondents in the matter.

Since 2013 until now, the Masenyas have been doing all they can to prove that Abdul’s Will was not authentic even suggesting that there existed another Will.

On the other hand, the Pandors family - strongly believing that the Masenyas are just hurt by the fact that Abdull did not leave a thebe to their names - challenged the aggrieved to produce the said Will. The case was delayed by technicalities and counter applications which led to the case dragging for a decade.

However, the case took a twist in October 2021 when Specially-Elected Member of Parliament Unity Dow revealed that she had found a Will in her office belonging to Doreen and Abdul. The said Will was signed by the deceased couple in 2003.

When testifying in court last month in September, Dow said that she did not know how the Will landed on her table. All she knew was that when the inheritance case was still fresh some seven years ago, she was hired as a lawyer representing the defendants.

But she did not recall receiving from them, the 2003 Will nor the defendants ever telling her that they knew of the existence of any other Will other than the one signed by Abdul in 2010.

After being cross examined in court about the 2003 Will, hand writing experts were also brought in and they shared that the signature of Abdull in the 2003 Will was not forged.

In September this year, following the many years of the legal tussle between the families, the respondents reached out to the Masenyas, requesting that they settle out of court.

According to Nadin, who said he was speaking to this publication on behalf of his mother and siblings, they were not only settling because of the newly-discovered 2003 Will, they just wanted the matter to end once and for all.

He said that ten years was a long time to be fighting and if they continued in that manner, the estate was likely to continue depreciating in value.

“In fact this was not the first time we told them that we wanted to settle. We once offered them P5 million and they said it was an insult to them,” he said, adding that they have now agreed that all eight of them - Dawn and her siblings, him, his mother and his four siblings - share everything equally.

Asked how he feels about the 2003 Will that has been discovered, Nadin said he has mixed feelings about it.

What confuses him is that all along the Masenyas suggested that there was another Will but could not put it on the table but all of a sudden the Will is there and it carries exactly what they wanted.

“Why is it that it carries what they wanted and why is it only surfacing now? It also has to come from our former lawyer, we wonder if they are in cahoots or what? It is really a tough one.”

He also does not know if the surfacing of the Will is politically-motivated given that Mokgethi and Dow are politicians in the same party.

“I really wonder if it is possible for Mokgethi to have known about the 2003 Will and kept quiet when she is alleged to have been the one that prepared it,” he said.

Nadin stressed that they did not settle because they felt that the Masenyas had an upper hand, but that they took the decision so that all can end and they move on with their lives.

He added that his mother Shereen has long wanted out of the matter and that is how she suggested that they give the Masenyas what they want, equal share.

Asked if they found it fair that his family was to inherit all leaving nothing for his aunt and her children, Nadin asked, “Who were we to go against the old man’s wishes? Again, my mother had at the time told us her children that even though my grandfather left nothing for Dawn and her siblings, we should out of the goodness of our hearts share with them and we were intending to do so,” he said.

Nadin said he was not sure why his grandfather excluded the Masenyas but he suspects it is because his cousins never showed interest in farming, which is what the old man was into.

“I know he once gave them money before he died and even gave Dawn a five-hectare farm at Gerald Estate and he did not give us anything, but because we knew that we were the ones always with him, we would get our share but sadly he died,” he said.

Although the matter has been settled, he cannot really bring himself to trust the contents of the 2003 Will as valid, but for peace sake, they will leave it at that.

He is not sure what it will take for him and his cousins to finally reconcile given the strained relations between them but they choose to take it each day as it comes.

Aggrieved Dawn also said she has mixed feelings about everything. She is happy that the war between her and her aunt and cousins is over but it does not mean that all is over.

She still intends on getting to the bottom of what really transpired with the 2003 and 2010 Will. She is hurt that there has been a suspicion all along that they were after the millions that were given to their aunt and cousins when all they wanted was to expose the real truth.

Webster Masenya, Dawn’s father and ex-husband to Yolinda said he has been supporting his children in the matter. And now that they have agreed to settle, he will be trying the best he can to bring the two families together. He believes that this is what Abdull and wife would have wanted.

“We have to start a healing process, not sure how but they are related and need to reconcile,” he said.

Once the executor is done with the valuation of the entire estate, Dawn and her siblings will finally smile all the way to the bank. The defendants in the matter, will also get what is rightfully theirs.

According to the court order, for immovable property, Dawn and her siblings will get a plot in Lobatse and Ranaka, a field and a borehole.

Shereen and Deon get separate plots in Knockduf. Shereen and her four children also get a plot in Lobatse, Mosi farm, a borehole and a yard in Metlobo.

Given that Shereen, Wendy, Abdul Pandor and Nadin’s legal costs were paid from the disputed estate, their shares in the estate will be adjusted accordingly to provide for the partial compensation for their legal costs in the sum of P535 800.

They will also be liable for a P60 000 payment in respect of Dawn’s legal fees payable in six instalments of P10 000 per month commencing end of October 2022.