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Lodger tries to take over house after owner’s death

A bid by a lodger in Chitungwiza to take over a house in Unit J after claiming to the owner’s son that she had been sold the house by his father before his death backfired when it transpired that the son she claimed had been involved in the sale negotiations died during the liberation war in 1978.

The house was only acquired from the Chitungwiza Town Council on July 1, 1979 and negotiations for the purchase of the house were reportedly in 1985.

Mary Chirinda had taken Washington Chitepo and the Director of Housing, Chitungwiza Town Council, to Court seeking the transfer of stand 6022 Unit J in Seke claiming she had bought the house from the late Gideon Chitepo.

She said the sale had been witnessed by Harry Mhandu and Washington. It was first entered on May 4, 1985 when the value of the stand was put at $1 200. She claimed she later paid $600 leaving a balance of $600 which she paid off on March 8, 1985.

Chirinda said she failed to conclude the transfer of the property into her name because Gideon Chitepo was then working in Kadoma. The other reason was that he had died after a car accident in 1988.

Chirinda claimed that after Gideon Chitepo’s death she went to the Chitungwiza Town Council which advised her to obtain a court order for the transfer. She said she contacted Washington Chitepo who confirmed that his father had sold the stand to her.

The son who appeared in court, however, turned out to be Booker Tendayi Chitepo, who said he was the heir to the property. He said Washington Chitepo who was the first respondent in this case was his brother but he died during the liberation war in 1978. He could, therefore, not have been part of the negotiations for the sale of the property conducted in 1985.

Booker also said his father died on March 12, 1989 and not in 1988 as claimed by Chirinda. Moreover, he died of respiratory failure coupled with pneumonia -a natural cause- and not after a car accident. The young Chitepo produced a death certificate proving this.

Booker said the first time he saw Chirinda was in October 1990. She came to Bindura to see him and was accompanied by a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation called Saveki, who told him that they had bought the house on stand 6022 and they wanted him to endorsee his signature. He, however, refused to sign the papers.

Booker said as far as he knew, Chirinda was a lodger at the house. The Chitungwiza Town Council said as far as they were concerned the house was still in the name of the late Gideon Chitepo. They said no representations had been made by him verbally or in writing of his intentions to cede his rights and obligations as was required prior to entering into a cessation with anybody.

Booker’s mother, Joyce Chitepo, said the first time she had heard about the sale was on September 22, 1990 when she went to obtain the rent card from Chirinda, who was a lodger, so that she could change the name form that of her husband to that of Booker. When she requested the card, Chirinda refused to surrender it claiming she had bought the house.

She also said the signature on the documents produced by Chirinda was not that of her husband and produced his driver’s licence to prove it.

Booker’s two sisters, Florence and Joyce, who also signed one of the papers as witnesses said they were asked to by Chirinda and Mhandu to sign a blank piece of paper in 1985. They initially refused to sign the paper and asked Chirinda who was accompanied by Mhandu to wait for their father but the two insisted that they should sign. At the time Florence and Joyce were 17 and 14 years, respectively.

Judge Chambakare said besides Gideon Chitepo’s signature not being his, his two daughters’ signatures were above his yet they were witnesses. He also said the paper Chirinda had produced did not per se indicate whether the house in question had been sold by whom and to whom and whether the $1 200 was the value of the house or the contents.

He also said after Chirinda had contacted Booker who was the heir she had made no attempt to amend pleadings to delete Washington Chitepo who had long died before his father had even acquired the house.

He dismissed the application and ordered Chirinda to pay the costs.

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