Death of the spouse means a ‘funeral’ to his descendants

25Apr 2016
Rose Mwalongo
The Guardian
Death of the spouse means a ‘funeral’ to his descendants

A story is told of a driver whose boss used to send him to his house with groceries on the daily basis before lunch time. News has it that the boss’s wife was so generous that whenever the driver went she made sure that he took his lunch to spare his few coins.

Legal experts representing WLAC brief the media on the Constitution case

Needless to say, the wife always told her husband that she prepared some meals for the driver. One day, the boss’s wife got a heart attack and passed away. Her death was received in a very somber mood by every person who knew *her especially her immediate family members.

The whole family had gathered there to comfort the husband when a man of middle age interrupted the whole congregation as he cried so loudly making mourners raise eyebrows. I mean they had too, after all, the husband was there, and all the other relatives, and so everyone wondered who could it be?

The situation became so cumbersome, that the husband decided to clear the air. “Shut up will you, I know you are crying so much because my wife used to give you some food whenever you brought the groceries. Well I will find another wife and will give her the same instructions worry not,” Guess what, the mourner who happened to have been his driver, ceased to mourn, and went to a corner somewhere in disgrace.

The point I am trying to make here is that there are always reasons that make people mourn the way they do. For instance, when a wife dies, the widower tends to mourn in a unique style as he would cover his face with the palm of his arm leaving space between his fingers with his eyes wondering around.

However, when a husband dies, the widow would weep as if the world is coming to an end, covering her face while looking down with deep grief, so goes the observation of one popular preacher in town. In most cases, it is the widow who can make everyone including mourners who are not related to the deceased shed tears.

The reason behind this type of mourning is that a man mourns and leaves his space between his fingers as his eyes wonders around to see the next replacement while as the lady mourns wondering about the aftermath, how she is going to take care of the children, the solitude she has to encounter and in the African context, she has to wonder over how her in laws will treat her now that their beloved son is gone.

In principal the death of the male spouse may mean a funeral for his descendants. A colleague at work who happened to have been a widow once told me that the death of the husband is what makes a widow see the true colors of her in laws.

Mwajua Mwinyimkuu, a widow ever since 2009 is such an example as she may be alive, but for sure, her spouse’s death meant a ‘funeral’ for her and her children. Mwajua and Abas Kihemba tied their knots under the Islamic religion in 1991 and during their lifetime managed to acquire several properties together including building houses, apartments, buying farms and all you can think of.

Mwajua, made a contribution as any other committed wife would do and went as far as taking loans through financial company Pride just to support her husband. Guess what, the death of her husband turned her life upside down as the deceased’ son was given the mandate to become the administrator of the family and went as far as selling each and everything dividing it to the heirs of the family.

“More often than not widows are left with the children and wondering what to do. Her suffering may mean children failing to go to school and turning into irresponsible adults,” laments Mwajua who however has decided to join hands with legal experts to seek legal remedy on the situation.
Mwajua under the legal assistance of Women Legal Aid Clinic has decided to file a Constitution case number 10.

In the petition, the duo declare that non recognition of a widow’s efforts and contribution towards the acquisition of the matrimonial assets upon the demise of her husband is unconstitutional as it offends Article 12 (1) and 13(1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977.

Article 12 1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 reads: “All human beings are born free, and are all equal. While as Article13.-(1) reads “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to Equality before the protection and equality before the law.”

The petitioners in this case make it clear that the current practice in Tanzania doesn’t consider the widow’s contribution to the acquisition of the matrimonial properties despite being the surviving spouse of the deceased husband.

So much has been said in regard to our country laws when it comes to girls’ and women’s rights. For instance, the law of the Marriage Act under its section 13 (1) has some of the most outdated provisions.

Section 13(1) reads “No person shall marry who, being male has not attained the apparent age of eighteen years, or being female, has not attained the apparent age of fifteen years.”

Tanzania has been campaigning against child marriage, at least those against it, while at the same time campaigning for a girl child education. The above provision itself leaves little to be desired for, and it is sad to see a girl of 15 who should be at school becoming someone’s wife while the same is not allowed to vote on account that she is still a child.

The legal regime is rather complex with conflicting laws amidst it. For instance the law of the child Act terms any person under 18 a child while the same under age can be a wife under parental consent, how deadly.

Girls and women of this good country need legal experts from areas such as the Women Legal Aid Clinic (WLAC) to seek the legal stance and spare them from draconian provisions such as those dealing with inheritance and marriage among others.

Let our legislators amend these laws for at least they owe us that much to curb the ‘funeral’ of descendants once the male parent dies. Let all in laws respect and have a sense of compassionate for widows and orphans welfare.

Rose Ngunangwa Mwalongo is a correspondent with the Guardian, Media Consultant as well as an ardent advocate of human rights and can be reached through 0715286671 or
[email protected]