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Her daughter’s property rightly became hers

Makambako

Sophia Mdindile (left) of Makambako, Njombe and her mother (at the middle) were assisted through legal aid by paralegal Justina Mengele (right), and succeeded in securing the title deed to the house formerly owned by Sophia’s late sister, which has now been inherited by their mother.

In the town of Makambako, greed could have deprived an old lady of her inheritance following the death of her daughter were it not for the express intervention of paralegals.

Her daughter did quite for herself and built a house in 2003, and later also purchased a car and lived happily even after meeting a man and marrying him in 2009.

While this was her first marriage, to her husband, she was the second wife. The couple however, never had a child together.

“They lived together for years, but unfortunately my sister passed away first, and her husband died three years later”, says Sophia Mdindile, the deceased woman’s younger sister.

After her passing, her husband had remained in charge of the house and the car, however when he died, the title deed to the house and the vehicle registration certificate were taken and kept by his children from his first wife.

“A public announcement was put to remind home owners to pay property and land tax.  That’s when our mother asked me to check whether any tax was owed on the house. To do that, I had to fetch the title deed and that’s when I hit a brick wall. My late sister’s stepsons were adamant that, the house belonged to their father and stepmother, for that matter they were the rightful inheritors”, recalls Mdindile.

Upon informing her mother of the development, in her old age, she began fearing for the worst, because she knew the house and car were her late daughter’s property and her husband had no stake whatsoever.

Mdindile sought help from the local leadership but endured endless appointments that in the end led nowhere. Her sister-in-law aware of the local paralegal organization alerted her and insisted upon her to seek their assistance immediately.

Justina Mengele, the paralegal that took up the case remembers confronting the culprits regarding the title deed to the house, “I called the deceased woman’s stepsons and asked them to bring with them the title deed which they did. One of my colleagues examined it but found none of the names on the document.  That’s when I asked them the grounds on which they kept it, however they couldn’t explain;

“We then categorically explained to them that due to the fact that, their father never had a child with their stepmother, whatever property she owned would be passed on to her mother.  That’s what we did with the title deed,” Justina explains.

Upon being handed the document, the old lady was asked whether she also wanted to keep the car, however, according to Mdindile, she responded saying, she wanted what she could see with her eyes every day, and by that she meant the house.

“I had a strong intuition that because my daughter wasn’t around anymore something bad would happen to the house.  That feeling moved me to try and rescue it by any means possible. I now rent it out on a six-monthly agreement and the income helps me with my daily needs;

“More importantly, I use some of the money to grow corn on my three-acre field, where I pay labourers to work the land. I use the harvests as food and also sell some of the maize,” the old woman says.

Mdindile says that despite that experience being a worrisome episode in her mother’s life, it ended well because the local paralegal organization saw the urgent need to help an old woman, who was at the risk of being defrauded of her rightful inheritance.

Regardless of her advanced age, she is still able to enjoy the fruits of justice and be able to lead a more content life. She becomes another example of how LSF’s Access to Justice Program enables very ordinary people in villages, towns and cities across the country overcome legal challenges, that are entrenched in society to rise up and claim their share of social and economic freedom.

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