'I'm suing his mistress for R 1.5m'

2018-12-20 12:34
PHOTO: Rowyn Lombard

PHOTO: Rowyn Lombard

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From the moment Lizette van Schalkwyk layed eyes on Christi- Ann Roberts she liked her – which was why she was happy to offer her a job on her farm and a roof over her head.

For months Christi-Ann, a distant cousin of Lizette’s husband, Willem, lived with the couple, sharing meals at their table.

But what Lizette (47), owner of the Zanchieta wild cat farm near Bloemfontein, didn’t known was Christi-Ann (25) and Willem (49) were having a steamy affair right under her nose. 

Behind the stables, on secret trips together . . . And all the time Lizette thought her marriage was rock solid – so she was stunned when Willem divorced her to  be with Christi-Ann.

That was the start of five years of hell, she tells us. Back in December 2013 Lizette was so angry she decided to sue Christi-Ann for R1,5 million in damages, claiming the younger woman had broken up her  marriage.

And even though she and Willem are in the process of reconciling she’s sticking to her guns.

The case is now being heard in the high court in Bloemfontein, which means day after day she has to hear graphic evidence about how Willem betrayed her.

But as painful as it is Lizette is determined to see it through because she has a point to prove. “I’m doing this because I want to show other women who are being cheated on that they can empower themselves and do something about it,” she says.

A springbok that’s lost a hind leg hobbles over to  Lizette and sniffs her hand as she chats to us at the lodge on the farm where her marital troubles began.

She’s been living here alone since her divorce. Lizette and Willem first met Christi- Ann in 2013 at a Valentine’s Day braai  at the lodge.

She was there with her mother, Stephanie, who’s the second cousin of Willem’s mom. At the gathering Stephanie bemoaned the fact that her poor daughter hadn’t been able to find a job. Before the month was out, Christi-Ann was working at the lodge.

“My first impression of her was good. She told me how much she loves  ani- mals,” Lizette tells us in the lodge’s conference room.

A blue folder on the table in front of her contains all the documents she started gathering when she discovered the sordid affair.

“We used to chat. She was always  joking with Willem. She’d always be  teasing him, like playfully sticking her tongue out at him.”

She recalls that Christi-Ann regularly insisted on accompanying Willem  when he went somewhere. But Lizette didn’t find it strange – not even when Willem increasingly worked away from home.

“In June 2013 Christi-Ann sent me  a WhatsApp telling me how happy she was to have me and Willem in her life. She also wrote she’d never known her own father and Willem was like a dad to her,” Lizette says.

Just two months later Lizette’s world came crashing down when Willem told her he wanted a divorce. Lizette says she was completely floored.

She’d thought their marriage was fine. “We slept in the same bed every night,” she recalls. “We kissed each other good night and good morning.” 

At this point she still had no inkling that Christi-Ann was the reason her marriage was falling apart. A few months later Willem moved to Marloth Park in Mpumalanga and in October that year their divorce was finalised.

Less than two weeks later Lizette received a WhatsApp message from Christi -Ann in which she spilled the beans about the affair. “I had so many questions,” she says, wiping away a tear.

“How could something like this have happened? Had it been my fault? They’re related to each other – distant cousins.”

In court Willem said Christi -Ann had been the huntress and he the prey. He testified their relationship started in April 2013 after she’d seduced him.

Later, he claims, Christi-Ann gave him an ultimatum: leave your wife or it’s the end of the affair. But Christi-Ann has a different account of events.

She was the victim in the saga, and Willem the predator, she tells us in her lawyer’s office in Bloemfontein. She says after she started working at the farm she came to see Willem as a father figure so she was stunned when he reached for her hand one afternoon when they were out walking together.

And a little while later came their first kiss – in the stable.

“It was a long time ago and I can’t  remember precisely what I said or did but I was shocked.” After that Willem wanted more.

Christi -Ann claims he threatened he’d tell everyone they were in a relationship if she refused to have sex with him. “He had me under his thumb,” she says. 

She denies that she went  to live with Willem in Marloth Park, as Lizette claims, but concedes she did visit him on occasion. Christi-Ann, who isn’t able to work these days because she suffers from chronic epilepsy, says she bitterly regrets everything. “I feel so ashamed,” she says.

“I’m not a terrible person and I forgive easily. I’ve forgiven Willem even though I’m still  angry that he stole my virginity.” She says she was young and naïve but now she knows better and wants to  warn other young women to be careful of  older men.

“I initially loved him like a daughter does a father, but love is blind,” she says.

Lizette made it her mission to discover everything about her husband’s affair.

She searched his computer and bedside  table and bit by bit pieced  together the puzzle of his  infidelity. The first time they had sex.

The canoodling in the stables. The secret getaways to Mozambique and the Drakensberg. Even though Lizette was heart- broken she stayed in touch with Willem.

About a month after the divorce he called to say he was going  to check himself into a psychiatric hospital in Bloem  because the stress was  getting too much. While there, he wrote notes for the psychiatrist outlining his  relationship with Christi Ann.

They include a description of their  first kiss. He writes that after that day they weren’t able to stay away from each other.

These notes are also part of Lizette’s court case. “He told me Christi-Ann had distracted him with her childlike behaviour, daddy issues and playfulness. He says it was just nice to get attention from her,” Lizette tells us.

After their split Willem wasn’t keen for people to know they were divorced but by December Lizette, fed-up with  the  secrets, sent a WhatsApp to all their  closest friends and family telling them everything.

“After 19 years Willem asked me for  a divorce so he can have this child, his distant cousin, his blood family, and they’re currently together in Zanzibar,” she wrote.

“My husband was stolen  and I’m hurt and humiliated.” Shortly after this she went to see an  attorney with her blue folder of evidence.

Legal proceedings started in March  2014 and even though Willem and Christi- Ann broke up six months later she  decided to proceed with her claim. Four years later the case has finally gone to court.

Lizette says in those  intervening years she poured her heart and soul into caring for the animals at her rescue centre.

Meanwhile Willem moved to Middelburg, Mpumalanga, where he continues to operate his transport business. But they stayed in touch and are now trying to reconcile. “

I’m going back to her. I love her very much,” Willem tells us in a WhatsApp message. And that’s all he’s prepared  to say. Lizette confirms she wants her man back. And insists that despite everything she doesn’t hold any grudges.

“I’ve forgiven them both – even though it might not seem like it,” she says. 

** This story was published in YOU Magazine on July 19, 2018

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