Mupfumira: ‘Small houses’ should not benefit from the deceased estate

April 2, 2024
Prisca Mupfumira Tourism | Report Focus News
Senator Prisca Mupfumira

In a recent statement that has sparked considerable debate within Zimbabwe’s legislative circles, Prisca Mupfumira, a Senator for Mashonaland West province representing the ruling ZANU PF party, voiced a strong stance against inheritance rights for extramarital partners, locally referred to as ‘small houses’. Mupfumira’s comments came during a Senate debate on the complexities surrounding the distribution of deceased estates, especially in the context of modern relationships.

The debate, initiated by Mashonaland West Senator Bybit Lydia Tsomondo, centered on the implications of the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:15), a law enacted in May 2022 that formally recognizes ‘civil partnerships’. These partnerships are defined as cohabiting relationships between a man and a woman who have not formalized their union through the payment of lobola, a traditional bride price. The Act grants property rights to individuals in such relationships, stirring discussions on its effects on the traditional fabric of Zimbabwean marriage.

Mupfumira, speaking to Sunday Mail, raised concerns that the current legal framework allows for ‘small houses’ to inherit from a deceased’s estate, potentially sidelining the deceased’s legal spouse and children. She highlighted scenarios where men cohabitate with girlfriends for short periods, and upon their untimely death, these girlfriends could disproportionately benefit from the estate. “You find that sometimes some small houses end up benefiting… Because he died while staying with a small house, she ends up taking everything,” Mupfumira remarked, questioning the fairness of such outcomes.

The Marriages Act, consolidating and repealing both the Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07) and the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11), aims to create a unified law governing all marriages in Zimbabwe. It introduces several critical provisions:

The minimum age for marriage is set at 18 years for both genders.
It necessitates free and full consent from both parties to a marriage.
It distinguishes between civil marriages (monogamous), registered customary marriages (potentially polygamous), and qualified marriages (based on religious rites and potentially polygamous).
It requires the registration of customary law unions within specific timelines to recognize the rights of succession for children.
It recognizes civil partnerships for property sharing purposes but does not classify them as marriages.
Mupfumira’s comments reflect a broader conversation on the balance between traditional marriage customs and the evolving nature of relationships in Zimbabwe. The Marriages Act attempts to modernize marriage laws while preserving certain customary practices, such as lobola, and ensuring equal rights and obligations for all parties during and after the dissolution of a marriage.

As Zimbabwe continues to navigate these complex social and legal landscapes, the debate underscores the challenges of aligning traditional values with contemporary legal frameworks, particularly concerning the rights and recognition of unregistered partnerships.