8 May 2005

South Africa: Brother Fights Sister Over Key

Johannesburg — Siblings argue over access to locked room

TWO SIBLINGS have gone to court - fighting over a key to a room in their mother's Pretoria home where precious family heirlooms are kept.

Businessman Philip Galasko this week asked the Joburg High Court to force his sister to give him access to the room in their ailing mother's property in Nieuw Muckleneuk.

In an urgent application on Tuesday, Galasko claimed that his sister, Minette Edelstein, was obstructing his access to the property and in particular the room which contains a tea set valued at over R100000, cutlery and other items.

Galasko said he had taken care of their 87-year-old mother for the past 25 years, managing her financial affairs and investments through a general power of attorney.

He said that when his mother became ill in February she asked to be placed in a home for the aged and that he handle the sale of her house.

The room containing the family heirlooms was always locked and he was the only person with a key to it.

However, when he started proceedings to sell the house, Galasko also began removing some of the valuables to store them elsewhere.

His mother's former domestic worker remained on the property to look after it, and Galasko kept in regular contact with her by phone. He paid the telephone account for his mother's house.

But last month his mother told him that he could not get into the room as the lock had been changed. He later learned that Edelstein had hired a locksmith to change the lock on the door and had the telephone removed from the house.

Galasko said his mother had since suffered a stroke. When he visited her in hospital, he asked his sister for the key to the room.

"She refused. We then got into an argument and she assaulted me." Galasko said he then contacted his sister's lawyer who assured him that he would speak to Edelstein. However, nothing came of this, he claimed.

Galasko said he needed access to the room to prepare the house for the sale. He said the property was soon to be "on show".

"Most troubling is the fact that I am unable to access the room in which the assets are being stored. Estate agents will be bringing interested parties to view the property.

"I am concerned that if I am prevented from removing the assets before the property is open to the public, there is a real risk that some may go missing or be stolen," he said.

Edelstein has not opposed the court application and has undertaken to comply with the court's order.

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