2 February 2013

Zambia: Valuable Lessons for Widows, Estate Administrators

WHEN Chinedu* lost his son, he was appointed administrator of the estate, but unknown to him and other family members, the widow, in collusion with her brother, devised a scheme to empty the bank account of all the money meant for the children into her personal account, much to the chagrin and disapproval of her in-laws.

ON Friday, September 14, 2012, I was informed that our first born son was very ill at Lumwana and the same day my daughter-in-law left for Lumwana to check on him and when she arrived, she confirmed the terrible condition her husband was in.

The following day, around 13.00 hours, she phoned to inform me that he had been admitted to Sino-Zam Hospital.

Wasting no time, I got to Lumwana myself and, when I arrived, I found that he had been given some medication pending the arrival of a doctor to examine him.

Upon examination, he was discharged and given some more medication to be administered at our local clinic.

Unfortunately, after six days, my son sadly left us to join our Lord. Since his death, I have always been puzzled by the events that preceded and ensued after his death.

On September 17 , 2012, someone went to Solwezi and withdrew some money from my late son's bank account through an automated teller machine (ATM).

And four days later after my son's burial, the same mysterious person went to the bank again and withdrew all the money until s(he) was satisfied that the K28,000,000 (KR28,000) had been taken out.

That happened in two days and it all came to light when I was appointed administrator of my son's estate.

When I took the widow to the bank I asked her whether she had my son's ATM card and whether she knew the pin code.

Her answer was negative.

After presenting various documents at the bank, we were given a bank statement by the bank teller, a lady who asked when my son died and I said on September 21, 2012.

She then informed us that someone had been withdrawing money from the account on three separate occasions.

September 17, 2012 at Solwezi and September 27, 2012 and September 28, 2012 in Kitwe.

Just imagine the callousness of someone going to Solwezi within 10 days after the death and burial of my son, to empty the coffers!

I asked my daughter-in-law if she had withdrawn any money from her husband's account and she denied.

When we reached the funeral house, my daughter-in-law's brother claimed that my son had a girlfriend in Solwezi who might have been given the ATM card and pin code by the deceased.

He further claimed that he even saw the mistress in a taxi near the funeral house, a claim backed by his sister, my daughter-in-law.

But nothing could be further from the truth, as I was later to discover, much to my horror and dismay.

Just read on!

I went to our local police station, along with my daughter-in-law and her brother, to try to establish who had siphoned the money, but we were advised to go to Kitwe Central Police Station fraud section.

On October 9, 2012, we went together with the widow to Kitwe, when she realised that I was not going to let the issue die a natural death.

She was scared stiff because at the local police post, the police had made it clear that to trace the person who had made the illegal withdrawals, would require a police order to the bank to produce the films from the closed circuit television cameras hidden at ATMs.

When we approached the central police, my daughter-in-law asked me this question: "How did you plan to use the money if it had not been taken?"

It was a poignant question and I answered that the money was meant for the children and the widow, herself, and I was just an administrator. The truth was beginning to unravel itself!

Upon hearing that, my daughter-in-law admitted that the mysterious person who had emptied my son's bank account was, (you guessed it), no other than herself! She said she had not only withdrawn, but also transferred all the money into her personal bank account!

I was utterly shocked, confounded, speechless, dumbfounded and annoyed to learn that she could do such a damning thing only four days after burying her husband.

What scheme did she employ to achieve this shameful, deceptive act? We were later to discover that she had been using her brother to withdraw the money. But then, there was another puzzle.

My son's last pay slip indicated that he'd got a cash loan of K65,000,000 (KR 65,000) plus interest, but that money was nowhere to be seen.

As if that was not enough, on October 18, 2012, my daughter-in-law took all the children without the courtesy of allowing me to bless them. Four days later, she came back to be cleansed.

But this was premature and they were advised to go back and come back some other time when they were ready, in line with funeral rituals protocol.

Strangely, they instead went to the Victim Support Unit. I want to remind you readers that we are Zambians and we should follow our customs and traditions. Don't misunderstand me.

I explained what was required from their side after a lengthy discussion, to my surprise, the in-laws instead of coming home they preferred to spend the night at a bus station.

The saying 'the guilty are afraid' came true on that day. What also troubled me was the issue of the childrens' fund.

She wanted the money for the children to be in her account, which was unacceptable to me because of the foregoing issues.

In the end all was well as it was resolved that a trust fund be set up for the children. My daughter-in-law thought I would grab all the money, but this wasn't the case at all.

I leave it to the readers to judge for themselves.

The reason I have written to this column is to try to help would-be widows and administrators to learn something from what happened to me. Let parents also exercise their rights not only women's rights. Widows, be very careful with the advice you receive from your peers.

Writer has requested to withhold his name.

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