Businessman Frank Buyanga has obtained a temporary interdict at the South African High Court stopping attempts to remove his seven-year-old son to Zimbabwe, where authorities say he was unlawfully taken.
Meanwhile, the High Court appointed the Benoni-based Centre for Child Law as the legal guardians of the child until a resolution to the custody dispute between Buyanga and his ex-girlfriend Chantelle Muteswa is finalised.
The Centre for Child Law will facilitate access to the child by Muteswa at Buyanga’s cost.
Buyanga approached the High Court on an urgent basis last week, his lawyers arguing that the child is a South African citizen who was unlawfully taken to Zimbabwe in 2016 by Muteswa.
Granting the interdict, Justice Denise Carol Fisher of the Gauteng High Court set a date of December 9 for a full hearing into the custody dispute, with lawyers for Muteswa and Buyanga expected to file arguments. South Africa’s home affairs department and the ministry of international relations have been joined in the proceedings as well as the Zimbabwe embassy in Pretoria and the Centre for Child Law.
In an affidavit filed before the court, Buyanga accused Muteswa of taking his son to Zimbabwe without his consent as required by law. Where his consent was denied, he said Muteswa should have obtained a court order authorising her to travel with the child.
Buyanga, a permanent resident of South Africa, said Muteswa has South African citizenship. Their son was born in Sandton and assumed South African citizenship.
“On or around 2016, Buyanga and Muteswa had a fallout after it became apparent that she was having an affair with a Zimbabwean business mogul based in Harare. As such, Muteswa unlawfully relocated the minor child in a bid to settle with her new lover without the peremptory consent of Buyanga,” Buyanga’s lawyers said.
Buyanga said he filed a child abduction case with South African police.
The property investor says he later became aware that Muteswa had acquired a new birth certificate for herself and the child in Zimbabwe. The birth certificate did not list Buyanga as the father, he says.
That began a lengthy legal process in Zimbabwe, he told the court, which culminated in a Constitutional Court ruling in October last month ordering him to return the child to Muteswa.
Zimbabwe has requested Interpol to put Buyanga on its Red Notice, making him liable to arrest and extradition. This came after Buyanga was accused of kidnapping his son movie-style in front of a busy supermarket in Harare, before the boy was returned to South Africa.
Buyanga told the South African High Court: “The child… has been brought to South Africa through a mutual friend of both the applicant (Buyanga) and first respondent (Muteswa) under the auspices that he is on holiday.
“Because of Covid restrictions and laws governing the movement of minor children, the child is now in the applicant’s custody and is attending school here in South Africa.”
Advocate Prince Mafu, instructed by Ntozakhe Attorneys, appeared for Buyanga while Advocate Henk Horn represented Muteswa, who joined proceedings by video link from Harare.