By Andile Nhliziyo for We The Future
Some 35 years ago, Mrs Silibaziso Ncube (62) and her late husband Mr Obert Ncube bought a house in Mpopoma suburb.
The purchase meant the end of their nomadic life in the city.
She remembers that they had rented and changed at least five houses before settling at their dream home.
“It was a great moment to secure our own house because we were always on the road moving from one place to the other,” said Silibasizo.
However, 35 years later, the fear of nomadic life is back.
Worse still, she is staring at the possibility of being instant homeless.
Here is why.
When Silibaziso and Obert bought their house, they did not bother with the formalities of change of ownership.
“For me, the most important thing then was that we had secured a roof over our heads. And as a woman, I had little knowledge on the procedures and processes. Besides, everything was being handled by my husband,” she said.
Five years after the purchase, Cain Sibanda, Seller, passed away. Even then, they did not bother to formalize their property pinning their security and hopes on an Agreement of Sale.
In October 2022, Obert also passed away. Still in the process of mourning her husband, Silibaziso came face to face with a sad reality.
As she was going through the Agreement of Sale, they used to purchase their house, she was shocked to see her name missing.
The important document only carried two names – Cain Sibanda as seller and Obert Ncube as buyer.
Now, both of them are late.
While trying to figure out how she will get the property transferred to her name, she received a letter from Lawyers notifying her they were handling the late Cain Sibanda’s estate and wanted to know the circumstances why she was occupying the house.
“Recently, l got a letter from the sheriff of court instructing me to report to some lawyers’ offices regarding my occupancy of stand number 82035 65/2021 Mpopoma.
“When l got there, l was asked questions on how l got to live in that house. l was told that Cain’s children were the ones claiming that their father never sold us the house and that l don’t legally own the house.
“Since the person who sold us the house is late, it is going to be hard to prove that he sold us the house because he can’t speak for himself and l don’t have the title deeds of the house.
“I don’t have money to engage lawyers because they are pricey. It amazes me that they waited all these years to claim that we never bought this house,” said Silibaziso.
Silibaziso’s case is not an isolated story. A number of women have lost houses in similar circumstances when their spouses pass away.
Often, women are always excluded in ownership of properties something that later disadvantages them when their spouses die.
Silibaziso said she was living in fear that her house would be taken away and render her homeless.
“I am just an elderly woman living with my grandchildren. If they take away my house I have nowhere to go,” she said.
Bulawayo-based human rights lawyer Nqobani Sithole said with legal assistance, Silibaziso can retain her house.
“This case is a matter of evidence. If the lady can produce evidence that indeed she and her husband bought the house then they can make an application for a declarator to state that indeed the house was sold to them by the deceased,” Sithole said.
This article was produced under CITE’s We The Future project. The We The Future project seeks to increase the participation of young women in local and national governance processes through capacity building on digital skills.