City records surge in maintenance cases

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THE Bulawayo Maintenance Court was kept busy in the first nine months of 2013 with 1 748 cases being handled.

NQOBILE BHEBHE
Chief Reporter

Legal experts attributed the high rate of maintenance cases to economic hardships, high levels of enlightenment in society and people not interested in marriage.

According to reports, in January 206 cases were heard, February (194), March (226), March (226), May (196), June (183), August (147) and 180 in September.

Bulawayo lawyer Matshobana Ncube said the increase in maintenance cases in the city was due to several factors.

“The financial challenges could be seen as driving people to courts seeking maintenance,” he said.

“As more women become aware of their rights, they tend to approach the courts for maintenance. In awarding the amount, courts look at several factors such as whether the father is working, his income and his financial obligations.”

Ncube said people were no longer attracted to the institution of marriage, hence the high rate of children born out of wedlock, adding to the number of mothers resorting to maintenance.

He said depending on the cost of living adjusting upwards or downwards, maintenance previously awarded can also be revised.
“That is called variation,” he said.

“The monthly maintenance can be adjusted upwards or reduced according to changing situations.”

Pathisa Nyathi, a veteran educationist and renowned historian, said economic factors override cultural issues because even gainfully employed women are also seeking a relief from the courts.

“To me it’s an indication of tough economic times rather than a cultural issue,” he said.

Working class women, getting fairly reasonable salaries are now finding it difficult to single-handedly sustain their children.

“So resorting to the courts is a way of alleviating their plight, otherwise they would not seek maintenance.”

Nyathi said the tragedy was that even men being taken to court “have also fallen on hard economic times”.