Divorcing Parents Use Kids Against Each Other
27 March 2023
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Children cannot be used as pawns in marital and divorce disputes and their rights and interests reign supreme over what parents want or argue, High Court judge Justice Priscillah Munangati-Manongwa has stressed, with the courts mandated to ensure that the rights of these children are put first.
The High Court is the upper guardian of children with a statutory duty to safeguard the interests of children within the precincts of the Constitution and the dictates of regional conventions like the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as well as international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Justice Munangati-Manongwa said as parents tussle over custody of children sometimes they seem oblivious that the best interests of the children reign supreme over parents’ inclinations.

She made the remarks in a judgment of a couple involved in a bitter legal combat over custody of their three minor children.

“Children are not chattels to be exchanged at will, held and used as pawns for parents’ selfish ends either to settle scores or score a victory,” said Justice Munangati-Manongwa. “Children have rights and are entitled to their dignity and humane treatment.”

The estranged couple, Lloyd Machacha and Precious Mhlanga, are embroiled in an acrimonious wrangle over custody of their three daughters.

The two separated and Mhlanga had custody of the girls aged 10, 6 and 4, but Machacha was given access to the children during holidays.

When the children came to his house for holidays, Machacha obtained a prohibitory order at the Children’s Court after being informed that Mhlanga wanted to take the children out of the country, without prior written consent of the children’s father.

The court also granted him an interim order for the children to continue staying with him pending the disposal of another application for joint custody pending at the Children’s Court. Upon realising that Machacha had not returned the children home after the holiday, Mhlanga went to collect the children in the absence of her estranged husband.

She managed to pick up the two minor children leaving the eldest after she was locked in the house by one of Machacha’s maids.

This prompted Machacha to approach the High Court seeking to have the two girls back, claiming that Mhlanga had violently snatched them and had stopped them from going to school.

But Justice Munangati-Manongwa ruled the application by Machacha had no merit, saying he was simply seeking to frustrate his wife from enjoying custody rights to the prejudice of the children.

She noted that Mhlanga has had the children since 2020 as sanctioned by the court and that Machacha sought to use every trick in the book to wrestle the children from their mother.-state media