19 March 2017

Tanzania: Housewife Wins Legal Battle in House Ownership

A HOUSEWIFE, Ms Rehema Mussa, has successfully managed to defend her matrimonial house which was clandestinely sold at a throw away price to another woman by her husband, Mr Mwango Maindo.

The house situated at a potential area of Mabibo in Dar es Salaam was sold to Ms Thabitha Muhondwa at 11m/- by Mr Maindo and immediately thereafter, he disappeared without notifying his wife on the transaction.

In a judgment delivered recently, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by Ms Muhondwa, who had petitioned the appeal case in an attempt to recover the ownership of the house in question.

Justices Mbarouk Mbarouk, Augustine Mwarija and Shaban Lila upheld the findings by the High Court in respect of Ms Mussa that she was the legal wife of Mr Maindo.

As held by the High Court, the justices of the Appeals Court ruled in the judgment dated February 24, this year, that the house being a matrimonial property could not be sold without her consent.

They, therefore, found no merits on the grounds of appeal Ms Muhondwa had advanced to fault the findings of the High Court on the matter.

"In the event, the appeal is hereby dismissed with costs," they declared.

Facts of the dispute show that Ms Mussa was applicant in a land case that was filed before the District and Housing Tribunal, Kinondoni, against her husband (Mr Maindo) and Ms Muhondwa, claiming that the house sold was her matrimonial property.

She had contended that such house was jointly acquired during her matrimonial life with Mr Maindo.

Before the Tribunal, the housewife had, thus, prayed for an order of nullification of the sale agreement and for a declaration that the house was her matrimonial property.

Upon hearing the evidence tendered by both parties, that is Ms Mussa and Ms Muhondwa, as Mr Maindo was nowhere to be seen, the Tribunal found that Mr Maindo and Ms Mussa were not lawfully married, as the tendered certificate of marriage was a forgery.

The Tribunal further held that there was discrepancy in evidence tendered as regard to who really purchased the piece of land among the alleged couple on which the house was constructed.

It concluded, therefore, that Ms Mussa had failed to prove her case as there was no valid marriage between her and Mr Maindo and thus, her application was dismissed and Ms Muhondwa was declared the rightful owner of the house.

Ms Mussa was not satisfied with the decision of the Tribunal and appealed to the High Court's Land Division.

In its decision, the High Court found that there was valid marriage between Mr Maindo and Ms Mussa after considering the issue concerning authenticity of the marriage certificate.

In doing so, High Court Judge Richard Mziray, as he then was, applied the provision of sections 75 (1) of the Evidence Act by comparing Maindo's signatures on some documents with that contained on the marriage certificate.

The judge found that the signatures were similar and thus, the marriage certificate was authentic.

On the basis of the certificate and supporting evidence, the High Court found that Ms Mussa had interests in the house under the Law of Marriage Act and the same could not be sold without her consent.

It was at that point in time that the High Court declared that the sale transaction was a nullity for being void 'ab initio' (from the beginning.

Ms Muhondwa was aggrieved with the High Court's decision and decided to seek intervention of the Court of Appeal, a move that has been unsuccessful.

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