Women and Justice: Court: High Court of Zambia

Domestic Case Law

The People v. Manroe High Court of Zambia (2010)

Sexual violence and rape

Pretty, an eight-year-old girl, was on an errand with her friend Violet, a seven-year-old girl. Along the way the inebriated defendant, Manroe, grabbed both girls, stuffed their mouths with cotton, and had sexual intercourse with both of them against their will. After he completed these acts, he threatened to kill them if they told anyone what transpired. Four days after the crime, Pretty’s mother noticed that Pretty was walking rather awkwardly, and upon inspection, discovered cuts on Pretty’s private parts. Her mother then filed a report at the police station and took Pretty to a hospital, where a doctor issued a medical report. The trial court, concerned with the reliability of the testimony of Pretty, a child of tender years, conducted a voire dire and determined that she was not capable of understanding the purpose of taking the oath. Therefore, the court required corroborating evidence of the rape to be presented. The trial court found that Manroe had been properly identified and that the medical report corroborated the rape, and accordingly, convicted Manroe of defilement. On appeal, Manroe argued, inter alia, that the medical evidence was insufficient because the crime was reported late and there was no date stamp on the medical report. The High Court noted that corroborating evidence need not be corroboration in the strict sense of the law, but needed to be “something more” than the victim’s testimony. Despite Pretty’s examination occurring four days after the crime, the High Court found that the medical report, having been issued by a licensed medical professional, properly corroborated the crime and therefore, upheld Manroe’s conviction.

The People v. Nyambe High Court of Zambia (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The Defendant, Mr. Nyambe, and the victim, Mrs. Nyambe, were married. Upon return from a fishing trip, Mr. Nyambe found Mrs. Nyambe in bed with another man and reacted by beating the other man. One month later, Mrs. Nyambe revealed that the reason she committed adultery was because Mr. Nyambe “was not a real man,” whereupon the two began to fight, and Mr. Nyambe struck Mrs. Nyambe with an axe and killed her. Despite the one month that had elapsed between the initial discovery of the adultery and the murder, the High Court found that the adultery still constituted provocation. However, under Zambian law, a murder defendant’s reaction must bear a reasonable relationship to the provocation to invoke that affirmative defense to reduce the conviction to manslaughter. The High Court found that the Defendant’s retaliation of striking his wife with an axe was not proportional to the provocation and convicted him of murder.

Phiri v. Zulu High Court of Zambia (2012)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Property and inheritance rights

After fifty-four years of marriage, Mr. Phiri divorced Ms. Zulu in 2006. She was the mother of his nine children, and they shared a matrimonial home on a farm. Throughout the course of the marriage, Mr. Phiri and Ms. Zulu acquired real property, comprising the farm, other residential houses, and a bar, as well as several vehicles. However, during the divorce proceedings Mr. Phiri sold many of the houses and gave two of the properties to his children as gifts. He kept the proceeds of the sales for himself. The local court of first instance ordered Mr. Phiri to surrender one of the houses, a shop, a tavern and a sewing machine to Ms. Zulu. Unhappy with the outcome, Mr. Phiri appealed to the Subordinate Court, which heard the matter de novo. The Subordinate Court came to the same conclusions as the local court, although it ordered Mr. Phiri to surrender an additional sewing machine and K 6,000,000, as compensation for the property sold during the divorce proceedings, although no valuation of the latter had taken place. Ms. Zulu appealed to the High Court, among other grounds, on the basis that Subordinate Court should have also taken into account her contribution to the marital home (the farm) and that an assessment of the sold properties (or monies from the sale thereof) should have occurred. The High Court held that because the farm was acquired and maintained through the joint efforts of the husband and wife, Ms. Zulu had acquired a beneficial interest in the farm. Accordingly, the High Court ordered a valuation of the farm and directed Mr. Phiri to pay with one-third of the value to Ms. Zulu as a lump sum. Moreover, reasoning that the K 6,000,000 payment, related to the marital property sold during the divorce proceedings, was awarded without any basis whatsoever, the High Court further ordered a valuation of such property, with Ms. Zulu to receive one half of the assessed value.

Nawakwi v. Attorney General High Court of Zambia (1991)

Gender discrimination

Ms. Nawakwi was an unmarried mother of two who applied to have her children included in her passport. For her first child, the Passport Office required a birth certificate, which could only be obtained by Ms. Nawakwi swearing by affidavit that (1) she was the mother of the child and (2) the child was born out of wedlock. When the passport was then issued, she was required to swear a new affidavit to the same effect. However, the inclusion of her second child was approved immediately because his Tanzanian father had completed the relevant documents abroad. Ms. Nawakwi challenged this practice as discriminatory, because it recognized a foreign father, and not a Zambian mother, as the parent of a child. The High Court found that the mother of a child was not regarded by the government as equal to the father with respect to the passport application process. Accordingly, the High Court ruled that Ms. Nawakwi had been discriminated against on the grounds of sex. In addition to the foregoing, the High Court also held that (1) a single parent family headed by a male or female is a recognized family unit in the Zambian society and (2) a mother of a child does not need the consent of the father to have her children included in her passport or for them to be eligible to obtain passports or travel documents.

Mashita Katakwe v. Hakasenke High Court of Zambia (2006)

Gender discrimination, Gender violence in conflict, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Rosaria, a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl, was raped by defendant teacher, and consequently contracted a venereal disease. The rape occurred in the defendant's home, which Rosaria entered with the intent of picking up some past school papers that the defendant had failed to bring to school on multiple occasions. After bringing this incident to the Head Teacher's attention, it was uncovered that the defendant had done this before, that measures had been taken to warn or protect students from the defendant, that the defendant had only received a verbal warning, and that the previous student victim had transferred to another school. In his defense, the defendant claimed that he was in a relationship with Rosaria, to which she consented, as evidenced by a Valentine's Day card that Rosaria had given him. The High Court held that the defendant breached the duty of care that he owed to his pupils and was therefore negligent, noting that it is the duty of a school teacher to care for his pupils, as would a father for his family. The Court reasoned that school teachers are in a position of moral superiority, and a young schoolgirl's "consent" is fictitious in light of the ethics compelling a teacher to not engage in sexual relations with schoolgirls, a young girl's cognitive inability to truly consent, as well as Section 138 of the penal code, which states that defilement of a girl under the age of 16 is an offense. Notably, the Court held that society's indignation of this type of behavior ought to be reflected in the amount of damages awarded. The Court entered a judgment in favor of Rosaria for K 45,000,000 for her pain and suffering, medical expenses, aggravated damages, and mental torture. Furthermore, the Court held that the School, Ministry of Education, and the Attorney General are vicariously liable for this judgment, noting that the government is responsible for all school going children in the care of its agents, including teachers like the defendant.