TROUBLED billionaire Elon Musk has hinted at his unhappy childhood and once said his father was a “terrible human” who committed “almost every crime you can think of”.
Now mum Maye has spoken out about the Tesla boss’ ‘violent’ upbringing – claiming his ‘beatings’ at the hands of his father, Errol Musk, began on the first night of his honeymoon.
In part two of the new documentary The Elon Musk Show, which airs on BBC2 on Wednesday, she says five-year-old Elon would try to intervene as Errol rained down blows on him.
“Elon grew up in a very violent home,” she says.
In an extraordinary story, model and dietician Maye also alleges she was harangued into marrying Errol against her wishes – after arranging the marriage with her unsuspecting parents.
Errol, who has always denied abusing his ex-wife, also appears in the documentary, revealing he was charged with murder after shooting three robbers on his South African property.
And he admits to having a strained relationship with his billionaire son, now the richest man in the world with a fortune of £200billion.
“My relationship with Elon is a lot like the relationship I had with my dad,” he says. “We communicate mainly by e-mail. I haven’t spoken to him for a long time.”
As a high school student in Pretoria, South Africa, Maye refused to date someone who wasn’t as good at maths and science as she was “and nobody was” – at l exception of Errol Musk.
Although she agreed to go on dates with Errol when she “had nothing to do”, she was not enthusiastic.
“He was insulting and rude to people and I didn’t like him that much, but otherwise I stayed home,” she said.
“My brothers forbade him to see me and for two years I didn’t see him.”
After graduating, the former Miss South Africa finalist moved from Pretoria to Cape Town, but says Errol tracked her down.
“He arrived with an engagement ring,” she said. “I said, ‘I’ll never wear it’ and he came back and told my family that I had agreed to marry him, which surprised my family because they didn’t know I was seeing him – I was not.
“Then I received a telegram from my parents saying ‘Congratulations, wedding arrangements are made and 800 people are coming.’
“I called him and said, ‘What do you mean by me marrying you?’”
She claims that Errol told her he would be a changed man if they got married, saying, “I’ll be nicer and kinder.” I’m just being aggressive because you don’t want to marry me.
Incredibly, she took him at his word and arranged the wedding in 1970.
“I got pregnant on my honeymoon and the abuse started right away, beating me up if I didn’t do what I was told,” she claims.
“I came back from my honeymoon bruised and pregnant and didn’t want my family to know about it. You just put up with it because you have no choice.
Elon, 5, ‘hits dad to stop the abuse’
The couple then had Elon, 51, his brother Kimbal, 50, and his sister Tosca, 48, but all three witnessed brutal attacks, according to Maye.
“When Elon was a little boy, I drove the car and he [Errol] would hit me. Elon would be between the seats, punching his dad,” Maye explains.
“When he was at home, hitting me, Kimbal and Tosca were crying in the corner because they were really babies – Elon was five, Kimbal four, Tosca three. [Elon] would hit his father on the back of the legs. Then, when he was eight, we left.
Two years later, despite the alleged abuse, Elon chose to go live with his father – a decision he has since regretted.
“It made me very sad, because I didn’t see why he wanted to do that,” Maye said, adding, “His dad had the Encyclopedia Britannica. I couldn’t afford books and Elon had read everything at the library in Durban.
Errol has always denied physically or verbally abusing Maye, and earlier this year in a YouTube video called Dad of a Genius, he called his allegations “ridiculous and made up”.
“I have never done that. I liked Maye a lot,” he said.
“She was everything to me. And so it’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. I loved him more than anything I’ve ever loved in my life.”
But Elon backed up his mother’s version of events in the 2017 Rolling Stone article, saying, “My dad wasn’t physically abusive to me. He was only physically violent when I was very young. You have no idea how bad that is.
Murder charge after triple murder
While Maye praises her “awesome” son throughout the documentary, Errol offers little warmth in his memories of Elon’s childhood.
Speaking of the relentless bullying Elon suffered at school with one incident, when he was knocked down the stairs and beaten so badly he spent several weeks in hospital, Errol has little sympathy .
“Getting pushed around at school was pretty normal,” he says. “If you did well in school they would meet you at the door and hit you with bags and we had a lot of them.”
Of teenage Elon tinkering with his cars – including a Porsche, Mercedes, Ferrari and Masserati – he says: “I wouldn’t say he was the best mechanic but he would definitely try.”
More seriously, Errol also recounts his confrontation with an armed gang at his home, during which three men died.
He was charged with murder but pleaded self-defense and was not convicted.
“My daughter and I were attacked by a gang,” he says. “They fired 52 shots at me and I fired two at them.
“I was using a Magnum, so one shot killed two people. On the second shot, he died of a bullet in the groin. I was charged with murder but at the inquest I was annoyed when I was told ‘couldn’t you have used less violence?’ I said ‘I only fired two shots, they fired 52’. It was silly.
“It’s awful. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what happened. I was in the army in South Africa so my advice is don’t get tangled up with guys who are in the army in South Africa.
Split over babies with stepdaughter
While Elon’s critics often paint him as a sort of power-hungry Bond villain, he says his father is the true “evil” genius in the family.
“He was such a terrible human being,” Musk told Rolling Stone. “My father will have a well thought out evil plan. He will plan evil.
“Almost every crime you can think of, he did. Almost every bad thing you can think of, he did.”
When Elon left home for Canada to start a new life, his father called him an “idiot” and said he would be back in three months with his tail between his legs.
Elon went on to earn his first millions selling PayPal, before founding Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, and overtaking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the richest man in the world.
At one point he bought his father a house in the United States but, after moving there for a few months, Errol returned to his native South Africa, further damaging their fragile relationship.
Five years ago he was put to the test when the 76-year-old fathered two children with his stepdaughter – who is 41 years younger.
Jana Bezuidenhout, the daughter of Errol’s second wife Heide, has known him since she was four and the couple welcomed a second child in 2019.
The father of seven says his adult children, including Elon, were furious at the birth of their eldest son, Eliot Rush.
“I told my daughter Ali about him because I thought she would support me and understand,” he told The Sunday Times.
“She said I was crazy, mentally ill. She said [Errol’s other kids, including Elon] and they went crazy. They think I’m getting senile and should go to a nursing home, not have a life full of fun and a tiny little baby.”
Errol has since compared Elon to a toddler, saying their rocky relationship was due to his immaturity.
“Elon needs to grow up. He needs to push himself,” he said. “I’m not going to retaliate. I’ll wait for him to come to his senses. He’s having a fit, like a spoiled child. He can’t have what he wants and now I’m apparently an evil monster.
Meanwhile, Maye, who now lives in the United States and is often seen on red carpets with her son, is her staunchest supporter and still fights for her corner.
“I’m happy to say that SpaceX and Tesla are in the hands of my genius son,” she says. “We admire him for that but we don’t want to be him because with these companies he gets a lot of hate.
“Stop being mean to him.”
The Elon Musk Show continues on BBC2 Wednesday at 9 p.m.