Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, October 13, 2006

Inheritance law in Tanzania

Tamar Ezer and Susan Deller Ross have recently published their article entitled Inheritance Law in Tanzania: The Impoverishment of Widows and Daughters, 7 Geo. J. Gender & L. 599 (2006).

Here is their introduction:

Georgetown's International Women's Human Rights Clinic and its transnational NGO partners -- LAWA-Ghana, LAW-Uganda, WLAC-Tanzania and Swaziland's SWAGAA -- celebrate with this volume five years of joint fact-finding projects in support of proposed legislation to advance women's human rights. Clinic students, faculty, and transnational partners use the fact-finding information to write comprehensive human rights reports. They also expand on the traditional report model, however, by drafting proposed legislation to address identified problems. After the semester ends, Clinic partners continue to refine the legislation through meetings with sister NGOs and government staff. They can then use the report and bill to lobby for legislative change that will implement their country's human rights commitments.***

We present in this volume four human rights reports and bills, featuring a project from each of our fact-finding trips from 2002-2005 in Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda. They address egregiously discriminatory laws -- laws that deprive women of their dignity and sentence them to a life of subordination and poverty. Marriage laws allow fathers to marry young daughters to older men, denying the girls an education and condemning them to early childbirth and its injuries. In marriage, women have virtually no rights, and certainly no legal protection from domestic violence. When husbands die, discriminatory inheritance laws deny women property, control, and custody of their own children, and subject them to the whims of a designated male guardian.

While these projects involve Tanzanian, Ghanaian, and Ugandan laws, similar provisions can be found in developing nations around the world. Indeed, they were once common in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. Just as nineteenth -- and twentieth-century Northern activists succeeded in their effort to change their laws to grant married women equal rights with married men and to protect them from domestic violence,  so too can twenty-first-century Southern activists newly armed with human rights law. North-South alliances like that of the Clinic and its partners enable the sharing of experiences and can help speed up the process of change by bringing the North's resources -- rich libraries, dedicated student and faculty time -- to add to the South's knowledge, local expertise, courage, and activism.

This volume also includes three essays by Clinic faculty, partners, and students describing this new kind of human rights fact-finding project from several vantage points. In this first essay, we bring the faculty perspective on its benefits. Esther Kisaakye's essay provides the views of a Ugandan attorney who helped supervise the discriminatory inheritance projects in Tanzania and Uganda.  Lisa Vollendorf Martin adds three other viewpoints -- first as Clinic student investigating domestic violence in Ghana, later as a Clinic alumna supervising the student fact-finding mission about FGM/FGC (female genital mutilation/cutting) in Uganda, and currently as a policy attorney with WEAVE (Women Empowered against Violence), where she  works on domestic violence issues in Washington, D.C.


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legal pluralism in inheritance affect women `S RIGHTS in Tanzania. i hope now is a Tanzania to have one law of inheritance. women are discriminated in inheritance without considering their contibution on aquiring the estates.

Posted by: fatuma adam mgomba | Mar 16, 2007 7:31:08 AM

my name is kassim nassir mbura of tumaini university iringa university college. my legistrayion number is llb 03173. wlac is doing a good job but, there is a case that was brought to them and they failed to take action, now the woman who was fighting for the rights of her children has loosed the case on grounds of lack evidence which is not true * * * please help her with the appeal.
this is how the case was;
the woman(chiku kambi iddi (No. 0717993439)of mwananyamala dar-es-salaam) was divosed by her hasband leaving her with two children, hadija and abduli. the hasband had another family of four adult children. on his death the other family pretended not to know their your half cousins. in court the woman was asked to give her mariage certificate but failed to do so but she had photos of the marriage, the brother of the deceased testified to having attended the marriage but the magistrate, msaid it was not enough evidence without the marriage certificate. my view is that it is not easy for a person to forge photos that date back in time with people but it is easy to forge a marriage certificate the magistrate should have seen that but she didnt because she was bribed. please help the woman to get the rights of her children because she has surfered for three years and she has no job. the case is at aprimary court at kariakoo lumumba. the inheritance case of MOHAMMED HAMIS. opened by chiku kambi. my phone number is 0713824813

Posted by: kassim nassir mbura | Jan 23, 2008 1:58:45 AM

I wish to know the current law of inheritance that is actually practiced in Tanzania. I have faced a problem in my family. We are chaggas, and four(two sons and two daughters) in our family becuase after our father died, my mother divided the land unequally among children. Is such action justified before the court of law?

Posted by: William Hezekia | Feb 29, 2008 3:30:02 PM

In Tanzania the laws concerning inheritance are multi faced,they are not easy for a lay person to understand.Example we use Islamic personal laws,Customary laws and ordinary legislation such as the Probate and Admnistration of Estates Act,Further the land act is also in play as far as the disposition of land is concerned.It is wise to advise the society to seek help and advise from legal experts as far as these issues are concerned.I for one have witnessed many wodows and divorced women suffered due to this problem.Due to this i have joined an NGO base in Morogoro called Faraja Trust Fund which has a legal department dedicated to expand legal education based on this topic.Further we are on the move to expand our legal aid scheme.Jonas Nkya.LLB(Hons).Mzumbe University.0784585522

Posted by: Jonas Nkya | Mar 25, 2008 11:13:58 PM

I real cogratulate for what you have done ,because Tanzania law inheritance is not certain,This result to a lot of misunderstanding in the Court of Law.Therefore I encourage you to go in the interia part of Tanzania where a lot of people suffered on the ignorant of law hence they deprived their right.

Posted by: Anne phillip | Oct 25, 2008 1:27:59 AM

My name is Rainery Songea from Tumaini University College at Iringa, (+255713554254)
I read the article and came into conclussion that Tanzanian laws needs some amendment to createc equality between women and men interms of ownership as well as inheritance of property including land, this is the biggest problem particulary when husbamd dies without writting a will, a women will be chased out of the family or she must agree to be married again by bthe brother of the deceaqsed in order to remain in the family, this is dangerous especially with the presence of Aids,
Moreover education is much needed in order to make the women aware about their rights, some law has been amended including Land Act as well as Village Land Act to give women right to own land, but women themselves are not aware with this right, then once they gets problems it is where they starts to find the laws
In my opinion the right of individual should be included as part of subject in Tanzanian Education from Primary School to University level, this will make aware all people about their rights, apart from that more advertisements and concert as it is in the issue of AIDS, this will gradually change the system of patriachy in Tazania,
NB; Let the people be aware of their rights and enjoys it, because all people are equal before the law as per Article 13 of the Tanzanian Constitution
Everything is subject to criticism, and as a student I must accept the challenges from any person whether through email or phone.
My email is srainery85@yahoo.com

Posted by: Rainery Songea | Mar 20, 2009 5:16:16 AM

my name is Kenneth Kolowa, having read all the contribution above i agree with Jonas Nkya on the fact that there is a lot that is still interceptible to a lot of people concerning the law of inheritance, a lot have been scattered into various pieces of legislation as mentioned. in my opinion relating to the law of inheritance i think there should be a uniform intestate succession piece of legislation applicable to all Tanzanians, regardless of their race, tribe, gender, religion, or customs.

Kenneth Kolowa - the Law School of Tanzania - 0652079542

Posted by: kenneth kolowa | Jun 12, 2009 7:29:56 AM

I agree with Mr kolowa we need single legislation of inheritance to take care of us all as Tanzanian.I real hate those customary laws of inheritance especially local customary laws decraration order GN NO 279 OF 1963 IT IS REAL HARSH and these islamic laws of inheritance, for them woman is not human being, i dont even understand why muslim women contribute in the family with these laws,it is true that anyone of the spouse may die first but many times men die first and there problems come.esther RUCO.

Posted by: esther cuthberty | Aug 25, 2010 4:06:58 AM

Having gone through on the issues of administration of etates in Tanzania, I consider and I am of the views that several things need or must be checked by the Tanzania Legislature.

Normally when a person dies testate leaves no much troubles or rather leaves no troubles at all concerning administration of his estate. Problems start when a person dies leaving no will (dies intestate). But suprisingly, where deceased person was christian beliver, the law that governs the distribution of his estates is The Indian Succession Act of 1865. In plain words and if I must say is that Tanzania has no own legislation to regulate distribution of deceased (christian)estate when dies intestate. Then I think we must ask ourselves these questions. i. is the 1865 legislation sufficient for the living in 2010 or 21st Century? ii. If no, can there be said to be done any just in distribution? iii. Why there is no law of our own on the said issue?

The second thing that I think needs to be revised is the matter of small estates under part viii of The Probate and Administration of Estates Act [CAP352 R:E 2002]. This Act defines small estate under Section 2 to mean an estate that its gross value does not exceed ten thousand shillings. Do we really still have these estates in this 21st century? Legislature should consider it as well.

Last thing is that according to Islamic Laws, testator can not bequeth more than one third of his estate by will, unless legaties consent. The rest to be distributed according to Sharia. Is this Law not interfering with the principle of ownership that gives the owner of the property the right to use by any way(serve does not infringe the law), stay with the property or dispose it freely with no restriction?

Amani Jackson(+255714242490)

Posted by: Amani Jackson | Nov 4, 2010 3:27:45 AM

1.are letters of administration ad litem
recognized in TZ?
2.is it justified for an insuarance company
wishing to settle out of Court to insist on
one going for the full succession for
purposes of inheritance and distribution?
3.Roughly in TZ what is the sum to be awarded to
the Estate of a fatal Road accident victim?

Posted by: JOHNSON | Jan 9, 2011 9:19:03 PM

I would like to know more about the inheritance distribution if the deceased mother or father died without will or child and one of them i.e.mother or father still alive who is suppose to be successor of the property?

Posted by: mashaka kingaru | Aug 10, 2011 11:43:34 PM

my name is Baraka Kajiru from Tumaini University Makimira collage(0717715298)
what i just want to say first is to congratulates you guys for understand this problems of inheritance which faces most of widows. i would like to say that most of our laws governing probate matters are not satisfactory, fore example using customary law which normally are discriminatory in terms of gender you may find most of widows lose their rights on that basis of relying on customary rule. this article help to bring awareness

Posted by: Kajiru | Aug 27, 2011 11:22:19 AM

The laws regarding inheritance are oppressive and discriminatory.and the issue is more serious when it comes to customary laws,though The Land Act claiming that a woman have equal right to land ownership like men. The Magistrates should change from this agony of oppressive customary laws,no matter what implication they have in the plevailing society. The time has com that the laws of inheritance should be clear when it come to inheritance of land in women.
Edith Lukosi, University of Dodoma(LL.B 3r yr)

Posted by: Lukosi Edith | Apr 20, 2012 2:54:03 PM

why should the law punish innocent people?I still have doubt over the administration of estates law regarding to illegitimate children.please assist me.

Posted by: obadia mathias mongi | May 29, 2012 11:26:32 AM

Under Islamic inheritance sometimes people belief that because one dies professing a Moslem religion, then Islamic law will automatically govern the distribution of his estate, this is incorrect. The estate of the deceased can be administered under Islamic law or customary law, even statutory law as stipulated in the case of Musa Makono v Rehema Hassan this case concerning the parties were wangoni and muslim by religion residing in D.S.M. Court held that as there was nothing in the circumstances to show that the parties intended their religious law to apply as their personal law rather than their tribunal law, then wangoni customary law should apply.
Statutory law in Tanzania in indirect manner encourages certain customary rule and praises the male as the head of the family in which all authority vested in them, a man can easily manage and control all matter related to ownership, thus still now, practice and provision discriminate women, example to allow the applicability of customary law as we know that customary law is still haunt women, this situation obstruct women in inheritance, for instance, section 88 of Probate and Administration of Estates Act .allow the applicability of customary law while customary law contributes to the discrimination of women in inheritance this situation is a hindering society in struggling to remove discrimination for women in Tanzania.

In addition, sometime Courts in the course of administering justice they are favoring male in inheritance and this is due to the fact that some judge/Magistrate still have elements of patriarchal, they favor male than women though before taking office a judge/magistrate takes oath to protect the Constitution and to do justice without fear or favor, it is important to each Magistrate or Judges to abide by his/her oath. Iam very sorry to say to say that they applied the laws as they are stipulated without considering the position of women in this era of science and technology. This is shown in the case of Elizabeth Stephen & Another v Attorney General . In this case court admits that the customary inheritance law was flawed and actually discriminates against widows and female children. However, it could no be declared unconstitutional. From this point of view is clear that even court failed to declare these inheritances is unconstitutional this is still problem in quest for women inheritance rights in Tanzania.my nomber 0716809797 llb3 from mzumbe university 2012

Posted by: khatibu mkwavi | Jun 9, 2012 5:21:00 AM

Dear Lawyers,

Thank you for your good job.
Would you please help me to how testate and intestate inheritance are handled in safeguarding the right of inheritance to an illegitimate child?

Waiting to learn from you.
Thank you in advance.

Posted by: Shabani Kalembe | Aug 6, 2013 8:36:02 AM

why do we have multiplicity of laws governing wills in Tanzania,,,do these laws contradict other principal legislations,,,what are the possible solutions...0768060668...4TH Year Law student at Saut Universith

Posted by: Linda Yohana | Nov 5, 2014 8:58:47 AM

Whether it is possible under Tanzania Laws to have multiple wills ( one re-assets in Tanzania and another assets in another country. Also if the inheritance laws regarding division of assets in another jurisdiction can affect the Laws in Tanzania.

Posted by: Flora A Yohana | May 20, 2016 5:24:20 AM

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