Muddling in the Quicksands of Tradition and Custom and Skating Down the Slippery Slopes of Modernity: the Reform of Marriage and Inheritance Laws in Zimbabwe
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In 1993 the Government of Zimbabwe published a White Paper on Marriage and Inheritance in Zimbabwe which invited debate on proposed law reforms to this area of the law. That white paper generated widespread and often heated debate. I had occasion to participate in that debate and dismissed much of the White Paper's proposals for law reform as largely an exercise in "superfluity" and "mischief making".11 categorised some of the "proposals" as superfluous because those "proposals" were in fact already the law. I wondered how the law officers of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs could have got so much of the present state of the law so completely wrong and hence some of their recommendations to reform the law to what it already was. The other proposed reforms, which were not superfluous I argued, were mischievous since they were apparently intended to facilitate either the conversion of monogamous civil marriages into potentially polygamous ones or were designed to allow the legal recognition of the co-existence of civil law and customary law widows.2 Those aspects of the White Paper's recommendations relating to inheritance issues, which were the only ones that were not superfluous, have now been incorporated into the provisions of the Administration of Estates Amendment Act No.6 of 1997, which came into force on 1 November, 1997. In terms of section 6 the provisions of the Amendment Act shall not affect the estate of any person who died before the date of its commencement. The objective of this paper is to evaluate and analyse the new law as contained in the Administration of Estates Amendment Act within the context of existing law.