Shattered by a `Wicked` Uncle
By Darius Mukiza
The tale of 13-year-old Suzan Reuben is depressing. As the only child in her family she had a promising life, but this was suddenly shattered.
Suzan has lost both parents, the property they left behind has been seized and recklessly sold, and she is now a pauper, to say the least.
Despite being outwardly cheerful and mixing easily with fellow pupils at Zanaki Secondary School in Dar es Salaam, where she is a Form One student, Suzan conceals inside her heart some deep consternation. She looks upon every man with suspicion, mistrust and anger.
She says: ``Despite the sound economic base left behind by my deceased parents, my uncle John Magina, the man who was to supervise the inheritance on my behalf, crafted a scheme.
He first sold a Nissan Patrol vehicle owned by my late father Reuben Magina before resorting to selling a house in Dar es Salaam. Both sales were at give-away prices.``
``The proceeds from the sales were never given to me, and I have no one to pay my school fees, no one to look after my interests, and no secure place to shelter,`` she almost burst into tears as she narrated her agony, precipitated by none other than her father�s brother who was supposed to be closer to the teenager.
Through his mobile phone John Magina who said that he was in Shinyanga, admitted without remorse to have sold the vehicle and the house to settle a debt his late brother had left behind.
He also admitted to have consulted no one over the issue because he believed he was the sole stakeholder on this issue regarding his late brother.
John Magina said that the contents of inheritance included the vehicle, a house and household items but his brother Reuben had not left a will as he died suddenly.
``I opened the inheritance proceeds at Mindo Primary Court in Shinyanga about seven years ago because I am the executor of the bequest,`` said Magina over his mobile phone.
``My brother had left a debt of 2.5m/- and a civil case was filed in a court (he declined to name it). So I had to do the needful: Sell the vehicle and later the house to settle debt. It was that simple,`` he said curtly.
How much did the motor vehicle fetch? He would not reveal the amount. About the house! Magina said it fetched 4m/- but independent valuers who have seen the house, say it could fetch as much as 20m/-.
What has happened to the balance? Magina says he used it to meet costs related to transport between Shinyanga and Dar es Salaam and accommodation during the settling of the debt.
However, he says he does not remember how he spent the money accrued from selling the Nissan Patrol.
Suzan speaks out
``My late father, Reuben Magina, was an officer with the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF). He died in 2000, three years after the death of my mother Anifa Vakolavene in 1997.
Before my father died he took on another wife, my stepmother. Following the death of my father my grandmother Bertha Seme took me to her place at Rombo Kimara (in Dar es Salaam), after my stepmother was chased away by uncle John on grounds that she did not bear a child for my father.
``I was enrolled at Mlimani Primary School where I finished last year and passed the national examinations which qualified me to join Zanaki Secondary School.
``Grandmother Seme tried in vain to convince my uncle that he had no reason to sell the properties as they legally belonged to me. To our amazement the uncle told her that his brother (my father), had no children.
He also said he held the power over the wealth or property of my father. I am also informed that uncle Magina has sold two other properties of my parents.
``The uncle says under Sukuma customs and traditions women only get married to men but are not entitled to inheritance. In 2005 my uncle gave me 2,500/- and I took it as a gesture of love!\"
``The buyer of the unoccupied house that was initially fetching around 900,000/- in rent has threatened us that we should not take any action because he is a powerful man known even to high ranking officials``.
``He once told us: Even if you go to court you will not win because even the President knows me. Both I and my grandmother know the face of the buyer of the house but not his name.``
``I think the Nissan Patrol vehicle was sold at 2.8m/- but I am sure the house and other household stuff were sold at higher prices``.
Grandma Berth says
``If the house was rented, the proceeds would sustain the basic needs of my granddaughter.
I live by selling buns. I cannot afford to pay fees, buy uniforms, and other items. I am old and my own children, seven in number, some married, sometimes look after me. But they have their own families to look after.
``I ask you people of the media to assist me so that Suzan gets back her house and other properties.
She should not suffer a double tragedy: losing her parents and having her property snatched by greedy relatives.``
Views from neighbours
They saw the ripping and swindling of Suzan�s properties. They say Suzan had an assured future which was derailed by the relatives of her father who took everything the girl would have inherited.
``What I saw tempted me to think that nobody is good in this world. I didn`t believe at all that one day Suzan could live a life of destitution.
Please help her to recover her legally bequethed properties. She is alone in this world,`` said one Mrs Mwandu, whose family provides the student with clothes and money for bus fare.
Teachers of Mlimani Primary School where Suzana took studies for seven years said she was an intelligent, cooperative, and socialising pupil who struggled hard to achieve her goals.
�We knew she was an orphan although she lived as if she was not. She never missed classes. We helped her with everything she needed academically.
And by the time she was finishing Standard Seven we recommended for her to get assistance from Kinondoni Municipality in terms of fees in case she passed the examinations, said head of the academic department, Mathias Shayo.
Simon Magina, the younger uncle of Suzan, who stays in Dar es Salaam sympathises with Suzan`s plight, but has no means to help her apart from small things like pens and exercise books.
My brother should be held responsible for the plight of the girl. He should also be made to return the property.
The car that was sold by my brother could have generated enough money to finish the debt left by Suzan`s father. Really I don`t know how much it was sold for. What I know is that it was driven to Shinyanga where it was sold.
``My brother must come to Dar es Salaam to ensure that the house is handed back to Suzana.``
Suzan has appealed to Legal and human rights activists to take up her case, so that she recovers her swindled properties.