Inheritance issues in Zimbabwe are a minefield that continues to affect most women’s livelihoods.
The high number of cases being handled by courts on a daily basis of women losing land and other assets after the death of their spouses call for greater protection for affected widows.
Loice Chapanduka is a 52 year old widow living in Rushinga.
It is now 16 years since the death of her husband, yet she vividly remembers words said to her by her husband and in-laws in the event that her husband passes on.
Her story reflects the plight of thousands of women across the country, who like her, are faced with an uphill task to handle inheritance issues after the death of their spouses.
The situation is largely because of the complexity of the processes involved to secure the deceased’s estate.
One of the barriers relates to the absence of information around inheritance which has relegated women, particularly rural widows, to become second class citizens.
Out of the 50 cases being handled by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association on a daily basis, 30 of these involve rural widows and the glaring fact is the absence of information on how to secure their estates after the death of their spouse.
Inheritance laws revised in 1997 have done much to offer equal opportunities for men and women, and have indeed opened opportunities for women to inherit assets of higher value.
Traditional courts are disempowered to handle such concerns and can only take inheritance issues that relate to customary possessions.