Maware v Chiware

The couple in this case were separating after 31 years in an unregistered customary law union, and could not agree how to divide their assets.

At a pre-trial conference, Judge Garainesu Mawadze of the high court in Harare, Zimbabwe, helped the separating couple – both school-teachers, though the man had progressed to the post of headmaster – to deal with most of their disputed assets. Later, during a full trial lasting two days, Judge Martin Mafusire had to decide on division of the remaining items. He began his decision by noting what had been agreed up to that point via the pre-trial conference.

Of the 10 goats, both would get five. The building materials, including asbestos sheets and window and door frames were all divided according to the pre-trial agreement. The household goods and effects were also split up: one table, three chairs, four blankets, seven pots, water tins, dishes, plates, 10 chickens, five turkeys and a display unit were all to go to the woman.

Judge Mfusire then added, “In passing I make the comment that for a whole machinery of justice to be called upon to sit in judgment over pots, plates, chickens and turkeys, items over which the parties  reasonably ought to have agreed between themselves and their legal practitioners, betrayed unnecessary stubbornness and vindictiveness.”