Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe Lifestyle Editor
Life has always been a ball. Privilege and entitlement were the name of the game. Even if Dear Daddy was a philanderer, they could all join Mummy Dearest in turning a blind eye knowing that it would only be a matter of time before they got the ultimate prize. But things are about to change, and not for the better.
Offspring of the rich, born on the right side of the marital blankets have just had their security ripped off by the recent legal ruling which says that when it comes to cutting up the estate pie, there are no bastards at the table. Everyone gets equal claim.
“She is not my sister,” callously replied one acknowledged daughter of a prominent businessman when asked for a comment by a reporter after her father’s daughter from one of his numerous concubines had been hospitalised after a tiff with the father last year.
The rich dad has allegedly shoved his daughter out of his way when she had gone to ask him for school fees. The ‘let them eat cake’ attitude portrayed by the daughter whose mother wears the man’s wedding ring is one that is common with most progeny who share their fathers with children from ‘other mothers’.
And the men themselves are part of the problem. While nothing seems to be too good for the offspring of the legal wife, the same cannot be said about how they provide for the children that they have with their mistresses, second wives, concubines, one night stands or whatever other designation they may apply to the other women in their lives.
“It has always been accepted that his children at home lead a priviledged life. They live in a big house, they drive fancy cars, their mother has much more than mine and that is that,” shares ‘James’ one child of yet another prominent citizen.
While most of these kids do carry their fathers’ surnames, they grow up in a twilight zone where they are made to understand that they are second class citizens.
“I would never walk up to my half brother and sister and introduce myself. I do not know my father’s relatives and am not part of the extended family events like weddings and funerals,” explains ‘James’.
Another side of almost being rich is an absentee father.
“I only realised when I was in Grade 7 that there was something wrong with my family set up although I had a father and a mother. It was only the taunting of other kids in my neighbourhood that made me wake up to the fact that my father was a mere visitor who only spent a few hours a week at our house,” recalls another child born to a prominent politician out of wedlock.
He says he is happy to be able to afford a used car imported from Japan and carve his own niche in life while his half-siblings glide in brand new top of the range brands, claim a stake in the mutual father’s empire and bask in the limelight that the family name blazes.
But the worst part for these privately claimed kids used to be when the father died. The first move of the legal wife and her offspring would be to freeze out the hated interlopers. For most of the kids who would have been left young, they would have to kiss whatever pretensions to the high life goodbye with some sliding into virtual poverty.
At the death of many high-ranking politicians and business people, it is standard for a statement to be issued by the family only recognising the children born out of wedlock and their mother as the survivors of the deceased. One such example happened last year when a politician died.
His son from another woman who bears the father’s name was not acknowledged even though his existence was information that was public within the politician’s sphere.
The children are also frozen out of the official picture during the proceedings and often attend the funeral as extended family or in extreme cases as ordinary members of the public rather than the bereaved.
But now with the court ruling, the days of accepting the second class tag for these children may be over and we can expect more bruising court cases soon as they fight for the recognition that may have escaped them while the father is living.
A lawyer this writer spoke to said all is not lost for the wives and their children.
“In most countries rich people do not leave their estates to the mercy of the Master of the High Court as we see here. Not only do they have iron clad wills which state who gets what in clear terms and usually cannot be contested, they also set up trust funds for their children.
“The trust funds are protected so that even if the parents lose their own money while still alive the children will not be affected.”
The lawyer said the best way for a father to be fair to all his children is to just leave a will.
“They should also be careful about trying to disinherit any of their legal beneficiaries as sometimes the will can be overturned if it is believed that the deceased made an oversight in skipping someone who had proper expectation of benefiting from that estate.”
But with secrecy surrounding the real net worth of many high flying individuals, the children born out of wedlock have their work cut for them in trying to get a fair share of the estate should dad kick the bucket suddenly.
A case in point is the estate of Retired General Solomon Mujuru whose estate is in dispute as his will appears to have vanished and the court appointed executor seems to be struggling to establish just what the deceased owned.
The widow challenged all kids crawling out of the woodwork to prove their paternity through the lab.