Women call for US$ child support

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WOMEN’S organisations have called on the government to constantly revisit laws that govern the payment of child maintenance in face of spiralling inflation rates.

This comes as the cost of living for the average Zimbabwean continues to rise, with many struggling to afford basic commodities.

Women’s Academy Leadership in Political Excellence director Stabile Dewa said the government should ensure that monetary policies also have a direct bearing on payment of maintenance to ensure that it is not depleted.

“In January 2019, my ex-husband was told to pay US$1 100 as maintenance for our two children. He never paid a cent. A few months into the year, the US dollar was abolished and a court ruling was made that all past arrears would now be settled at the rate of 1:1 with bond notes, which was really unfair considering the time that had lapsed and inflation.

“The monetary policy inconsistencies are disadvantaging children relying on maintenance as men are given the leeway to pay in any form they want — bond notes, bank transfer which by the time the month ends they would have lost value and it becomes difficult for women to fully take care of the children, buy adequate food, pay school fees and other necessities.

“As the economy has self-dollarised, the government must make it mandatory that maintenance is paid in US dollars so that women will be able to better take care of their children.”

The government recently allocated US dollar allowances to civil servants to cushion them from the harsh economic conditions which have resulted in some shops now displaying foreign currency prices for goods and services.

However, the majority of the population cannot access foreign currency and have the tough choice of buying goods at highly inflated prices as retailers compete with market rates.

“The prices of goods and services have risen dramatically and in some cases the amount awarded by the courts cannot even buy a loaf of bread, which has resulted in families dependent on child support suffering from debilitating poverty,” said Women’s Comfort Corner leader Ritah Mbatha.

“The galloping inflation has also caused domestic violence cases to rise to an unprecedented level, and as Women’s Comfort Corner Foundation, we are currently overwhelmed by the number of families seeking assistance.

“Most people now prefer to use the US dollar as the Zimbabwean dollar has become worthless and some retailers are refusing to accept payment in local currency. The coronavirus (Covid-19) has worsened the situation.”

Roots director Beatrice Savadye echoed similar sentiments, adding that children solely dependent on maintenance risked having their welfare compromised if the issue is not rectified.

“If the government could call for maintenance contributions to be made in forex, this would alleviate the burden that women and children who rely on maintenance go through,” Savadye said.

“An overhaul of the prevailing system also needs to be considered. Currently, maintenance is calculated from the net salary after all the deductions including personal loans and stop orders. This is unfair as it lessens what a dependent can benefit.”

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