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Maintenance default businessman gets tongue lashing from judge

By Mashudu Netsianda

A high Court judge blasted a prominent Bulawayo businessman and former South African Airways (SAA) boss, describing him as a spoilt and irresponsible man who enjoys a luxurious life at the expense of his own children.

gavelBulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi made the remarks on Monday as he dismissed an appeal by Elphias Maphisa (61) challenging his conviction and sentence after defaulting in paying maintenance for his child.

Maphisa, formerly employed by the SAA as an accountant, is in maintenance arrears of $2 475.

He was sentenced to eight months in jail for defaulting in paying maintenance for the upkeep of his minor child sired outside marriage.

Bulawayo magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove last year sentenced Maphisa to eight months in prison which she wholly suspended on condition that he cleared the maintenance arrears.

Justice Mathonsi, who was sitting at the criminal appeals court with Justice Maxwell Takuva, said Maphisa’s conduct was despicable given his social status.

“The court is not impressed by the assertion that a 61-year-old qualified accountant who was previously employed by South African Airways and owns an apartment in Johannesburg’s Kempton Park could not find employment. It occurs to us that the appellant is a spoilt man who is extremely irresponsible,” said the judge.

Justice Mathonsi said Maphisa was in the habit of siring children with different women and then leaving the mothers with the sole burden of looking after the minors.

“You’ve actually made it a habit to sire children with six different women and then abscond from the responsibility, leaving the mothers to solely provide for your children,” said the judge.

Justice Mathonsi dismissed the appeal, saying it was baseless and lacked merit.

“Your conduct is despicable and surely you cannot expect to have the comfort of staying in a luxury house in a leafy suburb while not providing for your child. There is no merit in the appeal and the appellant clearly has means to take care of his child, and accordingly the appeal is dismissed,” ruled the judge.

The state, which was cited as the respondent in the matter, opposed the appeal. Mrs Sifiso Sibanda from the National Prosecuting Authority argued that Maphisa had means to comply with the court order.

“It’s my humble submission that the appellant doesn’t seem to be a man of no means. Appellant alludes to the fact that he is an accountant and does books for Patapata Beer Garden on a quarterly basis and he can find similar jobs and work for a living,” she said.

Mrs Sibanda said Maphisa, who also owns a 10-roomed house in Kumalo suburb, has an option to lease out the property and raise money for the upkeep of his child.

Maphisa’s maintenance was pegged at $450 per month before it was later reduced to $225 per month.

The businessman, through his lawyer Advocate Lucas Nkomo, said he was an indigent who could not comply with the court order since he had no means to take care of his child.

He argued that because of his age, chances were very slim that he could secure another job.

Maphisa said he had two other minor children who are being looked after by their mothers in South Africa.

The businessman was on April 17, 2013, ordered to pay monthly maintenance of $450 for his minor child.

The fee was later reduced to $225, but Maphisa defied the order and did not pay the fees between July and December 2013, resulting in him accumulating arrears of $2 475. Chronicle