All marriages in Zimbabwe are out of community of property, unless the parties enter into an antenuptial contract prior to the marriage. This means that everything each person owns or gets before and during the subsistence of the marriage remains his/ her own. The spouses are also not liable for each other’s debts unless the debt is acquired jointly. A spouse who owns property can dispose of it as he/ she pleases. This has been the law in Zimbabwe since the 1929 Married Person Property Act.
Many countries especially those in the developed world for example Germany, United Kingdom, Holland, Greece, Canada and most States in the United States, also have marriages out of community of property.
Most couples however generally believe that they own property jointly and in most circumstances pull their resources together as those in a partnership. They believe that upon marriage they own everything in equal shares. This position leaves the other party vulnerable considering that they may have directly or indirectly contributed to the acquisition, of the property.
The Zimbabwean legislature and judiciary recognise this and as such made some inroads into the Married Person Property Act, by recognising direct and indirect contributions of the party who is not the registered owner of the property but this protection only comes upon divorce or the death of the other.
Closer to home South African marriages are in community of property meaning that the spouses own their property jointly so are a number of African countries. In Botswana the spouses may decide which regime to follow and can change from one to the other for up to two times. Perhaps it is time the Zimbabwean legislature changes the law in Zimbabwe to suit the needs and general expectations of marrying spouses.
ESTHER M. P. SARIMANA
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