50 maintenance cases reported daily

HARARE - Approximately 50 men are dragged to the Harare Civil Court for maintenance on a daily basis, a 2012 record has shown.

This suggest that an estimated 14 000 maintenance files were opened last year, up from 3 040 in 2011, 2 174 in 2010 and just 427 in 2008.

As a result of the overwhelming application of maintenance cases, there are now two courts that are trying to manage the work overload.

In most cases, women demand more money, which is normally twice or thrice as much as their spouses earn.

Magistrates have had a torrid time of towing down the line, as the women’s demands seem to jeopardise their chances of getting a fair deal.

“Do not approach the courts with the intention of revenging because we do not help settle scores here. Ask for what is reasonably within the reach of the man so that the child gets what they deserve,” said a magistrate advising a woman in one of the cases held recently.

“The money you seek when you come here is for the up-keep of the child and not for your personal luxury. After all both parents have to contribute in taking care of the child even the one filing for maintenance,” the magistrate added.

Civil courts work extremely hard to deal with numerous divorces, maintenance orders, protection and peace order applications as well as small claims suits.

These courts also handle family disputes that involve verbal and physical abuse, and most people are not privy to how these courts work.

In most divorce cases, magistrates have had a hard time to ensure the equal sharing of property between parties whose marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Most divorce cases have been a result of infidelity or failure by husbands to maintain their spouses.

In one case, a woman had to share her property with her husband after the man neglected her when she suffered a stroke.

The woman cited that her relatives had to take her from hospital after she had been discharged and foot her medical bills because her husband had abandoned her in her time of need.

Small claims court deals with issues pertaining to disputes over “small” debts that cannot be taken to a criminal court.

These claims usually result in the respondent having to pay the debt up-front if they have the money or are given an order to pay by a certain date.

Protection orders generally apply to people who live in the same neighbourhood and are seeking an interdict from the other part from interfering with their personal lives.

Magistrates often advise applicants to make requests in their own capacity and not stand in for a relative or friend.

In one case, a woman applied for a protection order after a neighbour’s child had allegedly assaulted her 20 year-old son.

The not-so-amused mother was frankly told by the magistrate not to apply for a protection order on behalf of the child, who is already an adult, but to let the man do it himself. - Helen Kadirire

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