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Supreme Court in ruling on sharing of property after divorce

By Patrick Chitumba

The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who did not make any direct contributions to the acquisition of can be awarded a 50 percent share upon divorce.

Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe
Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe

Justices Ben Hlatshwayo, Chinembiri Bhunu and Tendai Uchena made the ruling in the case of Govati Mhora versus Emmaculata Mhora divorce matter in which the former was challenging the decision by the High Court to award the respondent a 50 percent share of their Harare matrimonial home on grounds that she had never made any direct contribution to the acquisition of the property.

Mr Mhora stated that the house was acquired through his individual effort and he single-handedly raised the payment for the said property.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the lower court’s judgment.

According to the judgment, the court considered Mrs Mhora’s indirect contributions and came to the conclusion that she should be awarded a 50 percent share of the immovable property.

It said over the years courts have awarded considerable shares in immovable property to spouses when they did not make direct contributions towards acquisition, but noted that each case is dealt with according to its merit and circumstances.

“The court a quo took into consideration the indirect contribution made by the respondent in taking care of the family and the household through the non-financial means for a period of close to five decades. It also took into consideration the fact that the respondent also took care of three of the appellant and the other wife (divorced) and two children born out of wedlock. The court considered the 47 years of marriage and the indirect contributions and expectations flowing from such a long marriage. It also took into account the age of the respondent who is aged 65 and that she was past her prime age and there was no possibility of remarriage,” reads part of the ruling.

The court cited other matters in which spouses were awarded 35 percent share and 50 percent share.

“However, it must be borne that in mind that each case must be dealt with according to its own circumstances and merit. I am of the view that the circumstances of this case justify the awarding of a 50 percent share of the immovable property,” reads part of the ruling.

Gweru lawyer, Mrs Takashinga Pamacheche- Mubonesi of Gundu, Dube and Pamacheche Legal Practitioners said the ruling is a welcome transition in the recognition of women’s rights as provided for in the Constitution.

She said the ruling recognises the important role of women in marriage as well as in the home.

Mrs Pamacheche-Mubonesi said the SC ruling noted the need to recognise the vital motherly duties and their contribution to acquisition of assets and property within marriages.

“Most outcomes have been agreements between the parties after a round table. In most cases it’s the men who have been prone to raise it as a defence that the woman or wife has not made financial contribution in the acquisition of assets or property,” she said.

The director of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) Mrs Abigail Matsvayi said when divorcing, it is important for both parties to consider contributions that each part made while married.

She said it’s not just about financial contributions as women contribute in different ways which include taking care of the children and upkeep of the family.

“These contributions can be financial and non-financial. And when separating or divorcing, you ought to give each part what is due to them based on what they contributed in marriage.

“For women in particular as they are mostly disadvantaged, this judgement enables them to get a fair share of the immovable property. Generally, this SC ruling is a good reason for women to celebrate,” said Mrs Matsvayi. The Chronicle

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