Recently, Somebody Cares has been partnering with with Women Judge's Association of Malawi bringing truth to victims of rape and domestic abuse about their rights as citizens under Malawian law. During a visit to Mtandire (a community near Lilongwe where 60+ incidents of rape and domestic abuse are reported each month), we heard Richard Milanzi's story. This was a case where we could be 'Silent No More'. Read his story below.
Court Case: Richard James Milanzi
Date: 2 October, 2012
Richard Milanzi is a husband and father of four children in Mtandire. He and his wife separated in September 2012. At that time the 3 younger children were still at home, while the oldest daughter is married living in Salima. The separation came about as a result of his wife being unfaithful, her being caught in the act of adultery on two occasions. She is also fighting with her co-workers at her place of work, as she has been going out with their husbands too.
As Mrs. Milanzi was moving out of the family home, she took with her all of the household items: all of the pots, all of the mats, all of the blankets, everything. Richard was left with nothing to help take care of the children. They were forced to cook in small tins and to sleep on the cold floor.
The youngest boy, Yohane (15), refused to continue to eat. He was so upset at what was happening between his parents. The counselors in Mtandire visited the home to speak with him in order to bring him some comfort and help. The daughter in Salima took her youngest sister, Shailene (12), to live with her in order to help the family.
Richard earns a living from the rental of 5 small, one-room houses that he has built near his own home- bringing in a meager monthly income of MK2500. In the divorce proceedings, Mrs. Milanzi wanted the 5 houses sold in order for her to have her portion of the profits from those sales. Richard refused to do so as this is the only source of income for the children. But Mrs. Milanzi pressed the issue and Richard was given a court order to pay her MK60,000 for her share of the land and the houses. This was money Richard simply did not have. Nor did he feel this was appropriate since the reason for the divorce was her infidelity.
In recent months, SC has partnered with judges and lawyers (WOJAM-Women Judges Association of Malawi) to work with them in community, informing people of the law and their rights. On one such visit the counselors in Mtandire asked lawyer/advocate Martha Chizuma to represent Richard at the court hearing. She was more than happy to do so as this seemed to be a case of misrepresentation of the facts in court. Martha reminded Richard that Jesus went through trials, Jesus had faith in the Father and He will never fail us. It’s that same trust in the Lord that Richard will need, she encouraged. God will intervene.
On 2nd October, 2012, Richard, Martha and Mrs. Thomas (zone leader and a champion counselor from Mtandire) went to the Magistrate building. Magistrate Mwangonde called for Richard’s file. He was to pay MK60,000 – MK15,000 a month for the next 4 months – to Mrs. Milanzi. If he’s unable to pay, he would lose the land completely. Martha spoke up and explained to the judge that this amount was too costly. She explained that Richard is still taking care of the children and that the rental income was his sole source of funds. After hearing the case, Magistrate Mwangonde reduced the amount to MK2,000 every month to be paid to Richard’s ex-wife.
Richard is very thankful to Martha and Somebody Cares who have helped him. It was a pleasure for him to see that the counselors would not let him stand alone. He thought that since the counselors that were helping him were women, that they would not be able to handle his ex-wife. But now he is more than satisfied that that is not the case. He is relieved at the outcome and can now sleep peacefully.
Richard is thankful that his plot of land was not taken away. He is also grateful for the reduced cost of only MK2000 a month so that he can still take care of his two boys living at home. He appreciates the work of the counselors and chiefs as they have given of their time, energy and sympathy for his situation. He thanks God for the good works that have been shown to him and the support of the community around him.
On 8 October, Richard was called back to the Magistrate’s office. Magistrate Mwangonde told Richard that he had read the entire file for his case and had chosen to reverse the court’s decision. Richard was told he was to pay nothing to Mrs. Milanzi. After reading all of the facts in the case, the Magistrate was convinced that all of the issues in this case were at the hand of Mrs. Milanzi; and therefore Richard was not financially responsible to his ex-wife in any way. After years of fighting though infidelity and divorce, he is finally free from this woman.
Mrs. Thomas and Richard were overjoyed. Richard now has faith that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us. He is thankful for the good works of the Lord, and the hard work of all of those who stood by him through this ordeal.