Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
THOUSANDS of women and orphans yesterday thronged Nzvimbo Growth Point in Chiweshe, where First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa afforded them an opportunity to interact with experts on inheritance issues.
The First Lady, after realising how widows and orphans lose property after the death of their husbands and parents, initiated the programme to educate them on their rights.
She yesterday roped in officials from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Master of the High Court, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Generations Executor Services and Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to help her raise awareness on inheritance issues.
“Several women in this country are losing their properties following the death of their spouses and this brings untold pain and sorrow to the widows,” she said.
“Not only women are suffering this predicament, even men are not left out.
“I started this programme after receiving grieving widows in my office because of these inheritance issues.
“I then saw it fit to engage the team that I am moving around with so that they educate you on inheritance and property issues.”
The First Lady said most women were ignorant of their rights when their husbands die and in the process lose valuables they are entitled to inherit.
“This team I have brought, has come to equip you with knowledge so that you all become aware of the law and where to go when faced with such challenges,” she said.
“I urge you to listen attentively because most widows are suffering in silence without knowing where to go or who to turn to.”
The First Lady took the opportunity to educate the women on health issues.
She encouraged them to get tested for breast and cervical cancer.
She expressed concern over child marriages, with statistics showing they are on the rise in Mashonaland Central Province.
Master of the High Court Mr Eldard Mutasa said it was important for people to be acquainted with deceased estate laws. He said it was a criminal offence for family members to distribute property of the deceased other than clothes, without the approval of the Master of the High Court. Mr Mutasa said the law dictated that people should register deceased estates within 14 days, while failure to do so is a crime. He said an estate can still be registered without a death certificate.
“A widow has a right to remain with the property she was using together with her husband,” said Mr Mutasa.
“We also urge men to write responsible wills which do not sideline their spouses.”
Mr Charles Manhiri from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs talked about the Administration of Estates Act (Chapter 6:01).
It is the major law in terms of which administration of deceased estate is handled.
“If a man is married under the Marriage Act and without dissolving that marriage first, but goes on to marry another wife in terms of the customary law, the latter marriage is not valid for purposes of inheritance,” he said.
“If a man is married in terms of Customary Marriages Act and without dissolving it, goes to marry another woman under the Chapter 5:11, both marriages shall be treated as valid for purposes of inheritance only and both shall be treated as customary law marriages.”
Ambassador Mary Mubi of the OPC under the department of public affairs and knowledge management, said their office was open to attend to the widows’ plight. Ms Florence Chagadama represented the Law Society of Zimbabwe, while Mrs Paurine Mandigo spoke on behalf of Generations Executor Services.
The First Lady has so far met with widows and orphans in Harare, the Midlands, Masvingo and Mashonaland Central provinces.
Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Province Monica Mavhunga thanked the First Lady for visiting the area.