Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
FORMER Beitbridge mayor, Ms Showa Moyo, who had taken her late former husband’s wife to court following an estate row, was yesterday given the greenlight by the High Court to retain the disputed property.
Ms Moyo, who first served as Beitbridge Town Council chairperson before becoming the first mayor soon after the border town’s upgrade to municipality status in March last year, was locked in a long-standing house ownership wrangle with her rival, Mrs Twiggle Moyo, following the death of her former husband Pilate Moyo, an ex-police boss in Bulawayo.
Showa and Pilate were married for 29 years in terms of customary law before divorcing six years ago.
In terms of the divorce order granted by consent, it was stated that each party was to retain as its sole and absolute property, that which was in its possession.
Showa retained a house in Beitbridge’s Dulivhadzimu suburb, which she was in possession of at the time of the divorce.
However, soon after Pilate’s death, the house was registered under his estate triggering a legal battle pitting Showa and Twiggle.
Showa, through her lawyer Mr Gift Nyathi of Sansole and Senda Legal Practitioners, filed summons at the Bulawayo High Court citing the executor of the late Pilate’s estate, only identified as Mr M Chikwana, the Deputy Master of the High Court, Beitbridge Municipality and Twiggle, as defendants.
She sought an order directing Mr Chikwana, in his capacity as the executor of the Estate for the late Pilate Moyo, to transfer the house in Dulivhadzimu into her name.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo ruled in Showa’s favour.
“It is common cause that in 2012 when the parties (Pilate and Showa) divorced, they lived separately, with the plaintiff (Showa) living in Beitbridge and the late Pilate Moyo in Suburbs, Bulawayo staying with the fifth defendant (Mrs Twiggle Moyo) as husband and wife. This divorce was by consent and these parties knew that they lived apart for them to have sought such a court order by consent,” said Justice Moyo.
“It follows therefore that if plaintiff lived in Beitbridge and defendant in Bulawayo, Showa possessed the Beitbridge property at the material time. I hold the view that per the divorce order, possession being the physical retention or control of an asset, the only logical conclusion is that the spouse who occupied the house was the one in possession.”
The judge ordered the executor of the estate to transfer the disputed property into Showa’s name, saying she was the rightful owner.
“The first defendant in his capacity as the executor of the estate of the late Pilate Moyo be and hereby ordered to transfer the house in Dulivhadzimu suburb in Beitbridge into the names of the plaintiff, failure of which the Sheriff of the High Court or his deputy be and hereby authorised to sign all papers in relation thereto in order to effect the transfer,” ruled Justice Moyo.
She also ordered Twiggle to pay the legal costs incurred by her rival.
In papers before the court, Showa argued that upon divorce, an order was made by consent that each party retains that which was in its possession.
She stated that she had been in possession of the house in Beitbridge and now sought transfer of the property into her name by virtue of the divorce order granted at the magistrate’s court.
Showa said Pilate abandoned her and their children after he had found new love in Bulawayo prompting their divorce.
Twiggle, in her defendant’s plea, through her lawyer Mr Kholwani Ngwenya of TJ Mabhikwa and Partners, denied that Showa was in possession of the disputed house at the time of divorce.
Mr Ngwenya argued that a customary law court had no jurisdiction to redistribute the immovable [email protected]