FRANCISTOWN: Tatitown Customary Court president, Margaret Ludo Mosojane, has called for Batswana to pay attention to the plight of step children. She was making special reference to the increasing cases where one of the surviving parents re-marries and adopts the children into the marriage.
She says the issue is a concern in instances where people lose a spouse and the surviving spouse wishes to marry another partner. Mosojane says the surviving spouse normally marries again with all the property they have accumulated from the first marriage, instead of dividing it and keeping some of it for the children from the first marriage.
"The property has to be divided and the other 50 percent should be put aside for the children even when they are adopted into the second marriage," she pointed out, adding that children normally suffer and do not have any means of survival when their parent's relationships cease or one parent, especially the biological one, dies.
The foster parents are accused of not taking good care of children and sometimes they go to the extent of chasing them from their homes.
The court president says they get many cases where foster children complain of being deprived because of their parents re-marrying. She says the customary courts pass the complainants to the High Court because they are not adequately equipped to solve such issues.
Meanwhile, men are regarded as the ones who normally marry with their children's inheritance as compared to women. Women are said to be 'very clever' in that they will stand up and tell the spouse that the property belongs to the children and as such it would not be part of the community of property in the second marriage. The court president argues that when widowed spouses marry, they should be advised to discuss the issue of estate in relation to children of the first marriage in order to avoid the loss that usually young people experience. She says step-children are on shaky ground all the time when their parent's love ceases in the second marriage.
"Our commitment to adopt children who are not ours are shaky because of instability of our relationships. Today, your spouse loves you and the next day they don't sleep at home," Mosojane lamented.
The district commissioners do not do enough to address these issues, according to Mosojane. She says it is as if the district commissioners are only mandated to get people married and skip other sensitive issues that arise after marriage. She went on to say that the commissioners do not pay attention to the challenges the family may face. According to the court president, there is a need for family courts, with family affairs officers in all districts in Botswana. The officers, she says, will be able to take up issues as and when they arise.
She says the officers will also help give marriages the advice that the district commissioners do not address when people get married.
Francistown senior assistant district commissioner, Gotewang Senwedi, says they do advise people before they get married. He says this year, the district commissioner in Gaborone wrote a request to all district commissioners about people who marry for the second time. Senwedi says the request stated that people who were once married should not be allowed to get into another marriage before they make an affidavit. An affidavit, he says, states the particulars of the person the individual was married to and particulars of children and all the property that was made in that marriage. He also explains that the property is then divided and one half is put aside for the children.
"No one is allowed to get into a second marriage with all the property they got from the first marriage if they have children," he said, suggesting that traditional weddings might be the ones not paying attention to such situations.