Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Appeals Court to rule on discriminatory customary law of inheritance

Court of Appeal judges are expected to deliver judgement anytime soon, in an appeal case filed by Molefi Ramantele who is challenging the decision of High Court Judge, Key Dingake, who ruled in favour of four women who challenged Ngwaketse customary law that states that only the last born son can inherit family property.

The Court heard that the house in which the four women were supposed to have authority over was claimed by their nephew, (Ramantele), saying it had been passed on to him by his late father and that, according to Ngwaketse Customary law, he was the rightful heir. Ramantele had evicted his sister, while the other three, who are married, stayed in their homes.

The  four sisters, Edith Mmusi, Bakhani Moima, Jane Lekoko and Mercy Ntshekisang, won the case at the High Court after the judge overruled the decision of the Customary Court and Customary Court of Appeal law which allows males as the rightful persons to  inherit the family home.

 In their argument, Thabiso Tafila, who was representing Ramalete, had asked the court to make a balanced determination as there is no evidence which suggests that the four women are entitled to the disputed homestead.

On the other hand, after a lengthy argument, Senior Counsel Geoff Budlender, representing the four women, said the main issue is that the nephew to Mmusi has no right to evict her and that the Ngwaketse customary court were wrong to instruct him to evict his sister and asked the Court of Appeal to stand with the decision of the High court.

He argued that the sisters, particularly Mmusi, who is 81 years old, had  lived in the family home since 1991 after her husband passed away and had even built four bedrooms with her own money after retiring as a teacher  and spent the money on improving the homestead and thus should inherit the house.

He said Ramantele is not entitled to have Mmusi┬áevicted from the parents’ homestead.

“Ngwaketse customary law provides that only the last born son is qualified to inherit the family homestead as intestate heir, it is inconsistent with the constitution of Botswana for equal protection of the law, therefore invalid,” said Budlender.

Judge President, Ian Kirby, told the court that judgment will not be delivered on the 26th of this month like any other cases.

┬á‘’This is a complex matter so we shall reserve judgement for a later date to be communicated to all parties involved,” said Kirby.

 The four women were represented by advocate Geoff Buldernder under the instructions of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys, while Ramantele was represented by Thabiso Tafila.

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