Her mother is a judge who presided over one of the most high-profile murder trials in recent years and her stepfather is judge president of the Western Cape division of the high court.
But as far as Zara Samuels is concerned, that has nothing to do with anything – and she certainly isn’t about to back away from what she believes she deserves.
Zara (19) is suing her mother, Gayaat Salie-Hlophe – the judge in the Jason Rohde murder trial – for maintenance. She claims her mom kicked her out of the house when she was in matric and refuses to support her.
The teen is now a student at the University of Cape Town but her mother isn’t contributing a cent towards her tuition. Instead her dad, advocate Adrian Samuels, is having to cover it all.
Samuels, who sprang to prominence when he represented Ellen Pakkies in her 2008 murder trial after she killed her drug-addicted son, has been struggling lately as work has been slow as a result of the pandemic.READ MORE | The case against Jason Rohde
Zara says after finishing matric in 2019 at Springfield Convent School Senior School in Cape Town, she took a gap year and it was only when she filled in varsity application forms last year that she decided to apply for maintenance.
She claims both her parents have a duty to care for her until she’s able to support herself. As a student, she needs financial help.
Zara’s first application, lodged in August last year, was for maintenance from her mom only. “Then I found out that even though my dad had been supporting me, I still need to apply from him as well. That’s what the court says – when you’re filling in an application for maintenance, it has to go out to both parents.
“The last application went out at the beginning of November.”
Zara has now started her first year as a humanities student, doing a BA in psychology and says it’s been a stressful time “with everything going on”.
“When I applied for maintenance, I assumed it would be dealt with before I started varsity, but it’s been difficult,” Zara adds. “My dad is paying my fees but by mom hasn’t paid a single cent.”
The fact that her mother is a judge is complicating matters. “I received correspondence from Judge John Hlophe’s office that I need to ask for his permission to apply for maintenance against my mother.
“But I’m suing my mom, not a judge, and I assumed it would take just a couple of weeks to get a court order. But it’s being delayed due to the fact that there’s a certain protocol when suing a judge.
Salie-Hlophe declined to speak to YOU but referred us to her lawyer, Anel Bestbier, who says, “If Zara, as an adult, believes she is entitled to maintenance from her parents there are proper procedures to be followed should the legal route be her port of call.”
Maintenance cases must be brought against both parents irrespective of who the child is living with and whether one parent supports the child or not. Zara had taken the correct route in this case by filling out the application against both her mom and dad.
READ MORE | Man forced to pay support despite discovering child isn’t his
However, in order to bring an action against a judge she needs to go through the judge president. According to section 47 of the Superior Court Act, he needs to sign off on any legal matter involving a judge before it can go further.
“But this is my exact issue,” Zara argues. “My mother isn’t a judge to me.”
Zara's parents divorced in 2012 and her mom married Hlophe in 2015. Zara and her two younger sisters went to stay with their mom and stepdad in Cape Town’s leafy southern suburbs.
She didn’t have a relationship with her dad while she was staying with her mom, Zara says, but things changed when her relationship with her mother began to deteriorate in her matric year.
According to Bestbier, Salie-Hlophe denies ordering her daughter to leave, saying Zara had threatened to leave in September 2019.
“Her two siblings, her older half-sister and her mother pleaded with her to stop carrying out threats of leaving. She chose nonetheless to leave home by simply walking down the road. This is the last time our client saw her daughter. Subsequent contact with her was through her legal representative, which she shares with her father.”
READ MORE | Pretoria woman's heartache after being sued by her adult sons for maintenance
Zara disputes this version. She says on the night of 7 September 2019 she was at a get-together with a group of friends in Steenberg.
“My mom sent me a message saying ‘don’t come home’ because she thought I was with my boyfriend, who she didn’t approve of despite never meeting him.
“She said, ‘we don’t want you here, clearly you don’t care or listen to my rules’ and so on.”
Zara says when she drove home and opened the garage door, she saw a pile of her clothes strewn on the driveway and all the doors to the house were locked.
“That’s obviously a key indicator that ‘we don’t want you here’. I picked up my stuff, drove to my boyfriend’s mother’s house in Hout Bay and stayed there. The next morning, my mom sent me a message saying, ‘Please drop off the car. And then you can leave.’
“I went to the house and handed over the keys and left with what I could carry, like my school uniform.”
A week later, while having dinner at her boyfriend’s mother's house – where Zara is still staying – there was a knock on the door. It was Salie-Hlope’s attorney with a high court order stating Zara needed to have a drug test and psychiatric analysis as she was “a danger to herself”.
“I was taken aback,” Zara says. “I felt like it was an attempt to belittle and patronise me.”
Zara had a drug test – which came back negative, she says – and psychiatric analysis showed nothing untoward. “The psychiatrist sent his report to my mom’s attorneys and they withdrew the court order because there was no merit. I haven’t heard anything [from her mother’s lawyers] since.”
Zara’s dad says he wants to make it clear that it was Zara’s decision to file for maintenance. “I discouraged her,” Samuels says. “It has been suggested that I have a vendetta against her [Salie-Hlophe] but that’s not it at all.
“I said to Zara, ‘We might not have much, but we will make it work.”
Zara doesn’t hold out much hope of a reunion with her mother. “I often reflect about it, thinking about me going back or us having a relationship again,” she says.
“But for now, I really don’t see that happening. Maybe in the far future.”
Bestbier says it’s Zara’s family’s wish that she will realise “the void she has left in their lives and will ultimately make a success of her life in all respects”.
Zara says she hopes this whole process will be resolved quickly. “To be honest though, I know that’s not going to happen.”
• Justice department spokesperson Steve Mahlangu says a memorandum on the matter has been sent to the judge president who will decide on the way forward.
EXTRA SOURCES: NETWERK24.COM, NEWS24.COM,