By Bridget Mananavire
Matabeleland South opposition legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday attacked the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) for interrogating her over her late husband’s estate, and revealed she has not received any death benefits seven years after his death.
The legislator was speaking at the launch of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on violations of property and inheritance rights of widows in Harare yesterday, held under the theme “You will get nothing.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga was widowed in 2009 after her husband Christopher, died of injuries sustained in a botched robbery.
Following the tragic loss, her late husband’s children petitioned the Master of the High Court to rule on the inheritance of his estate following reports he left two wills. They alleged the second had been tampered with.
After an initial spirited fight, Misihairabwi-Mushonga ceded the Mount Pleasant home the couple had lived in as well as a flat and funds in the couple’s joint accounts, cars, clothes, houses and household property, among other things.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga revealed that she had been called in for questioning by Zaac chairperson Goodson Nguni.
“I went with a lawyer to go meet with Nguni, about two months ago, because he was the one who had called us to come.
“I lost it, I told him that I was left with nothing and you think you can come back and start telling me that I had corruptly dealt with my late husband’s estate,” Misiharirabwi-Mushonga told the Daily News after the launch of the report.
“But what it says is that Zacc was now being used for either political or personal issues. So this was now seven years after the process. And it speaks to how institutions can be corrupted.
“The lawyer I went with, who is from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told them that they should contact me through her, and she has not come back to tell me that has happened.”
She said she was involved in an inheritance battle with her in-laws for seven years before giving up.
“When they started using the police to pick up people in unmarked vehicles at night, I gave up. I had to seek the intervention of police commissioner-general (Augustine) Chihuri. They had the assumption that he had properties in and outside Zimbabwe, that he had money in the bank, and realised he had nothing,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
“It’s not just about property, but also the loss of human dignity. I would title this ‘you will get nothing, you are nothing.’ This issue of widows’ rights is always side-lined. I was left with nothing but a suitcase.
“I had access to the courts, to the best lawyer, to information, and I was a Cabinet minister. I went through an emotional breakdown.”
HRW senior researcher Southern Africa Dewa Mavhinga said the registration of all types of marriages will empower women to claim their inheritance.
“One of the key challenges that rose in terms of verification of marriage and proving marriages was the payment of lobola.
“But you know that sometimes marriages are consummated even without the payment of lobola, so that was a barrier when widows were trying to assert their rights,” Mavhinga said.
“But this should be looked at in relation to our call for the common registration of all types of marriages, including customary law unions.” Daily News