Family Home Secure for Zambian Siblings in the Aftermath of Parents' Deaths

Tomaida, the eldest of three siblings, had recently married and was living with her husband when her mother passed away. Following her mother’s death, Tomaida and her husband moved to her family’s home to live with and assist her father, who had grown very ill, and help care for her two younger siblings who lived with him. Sadly, two years later, her father died, leaving Tomaida and her young siblings orphans. Tomaida, 21 years old at the time, remained in the family home along with her husband, so they could care for her brother and sister, who were only eight and six years old at the time of their father’s death.

It was during this already difficult time that the siblings’ problems were compounded through the efforts of their father’s relatives to illegally seize their home. Soon after their father’s burial, an uncle and their grandmother physically chased Tomaida and the children from the family home. The two insisted that the house that had belonged to their parents now belonged to “the family,” and that the children had to leave.

Suddenly homeless, Tomaida’s siblings were cared for by an aunt, and Tomaida and her husband found a room to rent. There was not enough money to pay for schooling for the children, and the aunt they were living with was very ill, making it difficult for her to adequately care for them.

Knowing that the children had a legal right to their familial home, their aunt brought the case to court. The court process lasted an entire year, and their aunt’s health problems made the lengthy process even more difficult for the family. However, at the end of the year, it seemed that justice had been served when a judgment was passed in favor of the children.

However, even with this clear mandate from court, their uncle, who had been living in the house and renting out several rooms for a profit, refused to leave the property and instead announced his intent to appeal the court’s ruling. Feeling helpless to ensure that her siblings were adequately provided for, Tomaida sought IJM Zambia’s help to represent her and her siblings in court during her uncle’s appeal.

Despite the fact that Zambian law clearly states that a family home shall go to the children in the case of parents’ deaths, their uncle attempted to claim that the children should be disinherited and that the property should be his. Knowing that the appeals process would be lengthy and leave the children without a stable home for a longer period of time, IJM Zambia legal staff arranged an out-of-court arbitration. An agreement was reached between the uncle and the children through the mediation of an IJM Zambia attorney. The family determined that the children would occupy one part of the home, while the rest of the rooms would be rented out. The income from these rentals will be used to support the educational needs of the younger children.

Now, with her family’s needs met, Tomaida plans to start a business to earn an alternative and sustainable income. She is still determining her plan for future self-employment, but would like to get involved in trading. She says that she hopes to take good care of her siblings, to see them grow up, complete their education and become responsible citizens. Right now, she is succeeding. With the income generated from the rentals, her younger brother and sister have returned to school. Though difficulties with their extended family remain, the children have a firm foundation and a safe home.