"In Which the Partners Undertook Reciprocal Duties of Support" – A Discussion of the Phrase as Used in Bwanya v Master of the High Court, Cape Town





Bwanya v Master, intestate succession, maintenance, life-partnerships.


In December 2021 the Constitutional Court delivered judgment in Bwanya v Master of the High Court, Cape Town. The court ruled that survivors of life-partnerships "in which the partners undertook reciprocal duties of support" would be entitled to claim benefits under the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act (the MSSA) and the Intestate Succession Act (the ISA). This case note focusses on the phrase "in which the partners undertook reciprocal duties of support." It examines the jurisprudential development of the phrase through the case law. It considers whether reliance on the phrase is likely to present an obstacle to potential claimants or whether the phrase can be interpreted in a way that broadens the protection provided by the MSSA and ISA so as to ensure that all vulnerable partners can be protected.

The note suggests that the optimal way in which to interpret the requirement that the life-partners had undertaken reciprocal duties of support would be to focus on the claimant's needs and financial dependence and to assess how the law can provide protection and redress to those who have incurred relationship-induced dependence as a consequence of the particular form and nature of the reciprocal support provided in the intimate relationship. Previous court judgments have noted the typically gendered nature of the contributions made by family members. The law must ensure that it furthers the constitutional goal of achieving substantive equality between men and women, while also acknowledging and responding to the intersectional forms that discrimination and disadvantage assumes.


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Case law

Bannatyne v Bannatyne (Commission for Gender Equality as Amicus Curiae) 2003 2 SA 363 (CC)

Butters v Mncora 2012 4 SA 1 (SCA)

Bwanya v Master of the High Court, Cape Town 2022 3 SA 250 (CC)

Bwanya v The Master of the High Court 2021 1 SA 138 (WCC) DOI: https://doi.org/10.47348/SALJ/v138/i3a4

Camps Bay Ratepayers' and Residents' Association v Harrison 2011 4 SA 42 (CC)

Daniels v Campbell 2004 5 SA 331 (CC) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14746514040040050801

Dawood v Minister of Home Affairs; Shalabi v Minister of Home Affairs; Thomas v Minister of Home Affairs 2000 3 SA 936 (CC)

Du Plessis v Road Accident Fund 2004 1 SA 359 (SCA)

Gory v Kolver (Starke Intervening) 2007 4 SA 97 (CC)

Gory v Kolver 2006 2 All SA 640 (T)

Gumede (Born Shange) v President of the Republic of South Africa 2009 3 SA 152 (CC)

Kooverjee v Kooverjee 2006 6 SA 127 (C)

Langemaat v Minister of Safety and Security 1998 3 SA 312 (T)

Laubscher v Duplan 2017 2 SA 264 (CC)

National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Home Affairs 2000 2 SA 1 (CC) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15718160020958926

Paixão v Road Accident Fund 2012 6 SA 377 (SCA)

Robinson v Volks 2004 6 SA 288 (C) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-075066080-8/50013-X

Santam Bpk v Henery 1999 3 SA 421 (SCA)

Satchwell v President of the Republic of South Africa 2001 12 BCLR 1284 (T)

Satchwell v President of the Republic of South Africa 2002 6 SA 1 (CC)

Volks v Robinson 2005 5 BCLR 446 (CC) DOI: https://doi.org/10.12968/ijpn.2005.11.8.19616


Aliens Control Act 96 of 1991

Civil Union Act 17 of 2006

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Divorce Act 70 of 1979

Judges' Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act 88 of 1989

Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987

Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/0015-1882(90)80511-I



How to Cite

Barratt, A. (2022). "In Which the Partners Undertook Reciprocal Duties of Support" – A Discussion of the Phrase as Used in Bwanya v Master of the High Court, Cape Town: . Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 25, (Published 24 June 2022) pp 1 –28. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25ia13159



Case Notes