There are not so many women besides Mbuya Nhenda and a few women mentioned in our history. Allow me to introduce you toVenia Magaya. This woman should not only be put in history books but she should be given hero status in the community and the country at large. She led to the reformation of our inheritance laws that stipulated that only a male heir is entitled to his fathers property even if there is an eldest child who is a girl.
Based on our culture, the section 23 of the inheritance law says a girl child cannot inherit her father’s estate because she is a woman. Only in the absence of a male child can she be an heiress. However this section was amended after Venia lost a case against her younger brother who later sold the house thereby leaving her destitute.
Venia’s father died in 1999 and was a polygamous man with two wives of whom Venia was the eldest from the first wife and her brother the eldest from the second wife. Venia was recognized as the heiress in the community court by virtue of being the first child but the provisional court refused her the right to have her father’s estate. Yes that’s right it became a human rights issue because it was her right to be the heir.
And as such I would encourage people yet again to make sure during the constitution making process that we get to make sure that there is a clause that will say that no customary law is above a person’s human rights. This heroine died penniless and homeless. Had it not been for her to push the matter forward to the Supreme Court such loopholes in our governance structure could not have been realized and thus the inheritance law was amended from saying that only the male child is allowed to inherit.
This however is not the end of the road because section 23 still exits and is still in play today. For us to make sure it is not put into practice and better still, it does not exist, we need to make sure to include that in the constitution. What made Venia lose the case before the Supreme Court is that it looked at what the supreme law of the land says about her situation? The constitution being the supreme law did not back her up at that time because it did not have a clause that says nothing takes precedence over any human rights.
Thank you Venia for at least being instrumental to some change in women’s lives. It is up to the living woman, man and every father to make sure their daughters are not discriminated against upon their death. And I urge all to seriously consider writing up wills to ensure the future of their children.
To Venia, I salute.