Q&A – 14 August 2023

Using Power of Attorney for divorce proceedings

I am a Tanzanian married woman with two children. Due to my husband’s infidelity, our marriage has now become unbearable. Just as he will not accept sharing me with someone, I cannot accept sharing him with someone, this is not what marriage is about. To add to the trouble, my husband has a child with this woman. Do I have any rights on this child? I have also petitioned in Court for divorce through a power of attorney, which authorises my young sister in Dar to do the needful in order to obtain the divorce. The divorce is being contested by my husband. The trial Magistrate has refused to proceed with the case, demanding that I appear in person. Is this fair? Can the holder of the power of attorney not get me the divorce? In other countries divorces are granted through such holders of power of attorneys, why should that not be the case in Tanzania?
TT, Dar

We are unsure what you mean if you have a right to the child your husband has with this woman. Biologically, you are not the mother. The commonality here is that of your husband: he is husband to you and father to the child. You have no other connection whatsoever. Hence, you can have no right over the child. The child’s mother is the other woman in your husband’s life.

On the divorce front, we are unsure what facts your petition contains as grounds for divorce. We suspect that the facts for and against the petition require one to appear and testify. It is commonly-known that the attorney of the petitioners is deemed to be a competent witness. Hence, they can appear in Court on behalf of the party and do the acts as specified in the power of attorney.

The holder of the power of attorney can appear in Court as a witness in respect of facts which are in his or her knowledge. He or she cannot dispose in respect of facts which are not in his or her knowledge and knowledge of which has been delivered by him from the principal without testifying the facts himself.

It seems that the trial Magistrate believes your case involves facts which are within your knowledge, but which cannot be disposed of by your attorney. This would explain the requirement that you appear personally in Court. We do not think this demand is unfair. In the interest of settling this case quickly, you may want to consider appearing.

Rights of deregistered contractor

My uncle is a contractor working on construction projects mainly in Iringa and Mbeya. He had an issue with a certain company which had awarded him a tender and the matter was taken to the Contractor’s Registration Board (the Board). He recently called me and told me the Board has issued its decision on the matter and found him guilty of a professional misconduct and have suspended his certificate of registration. He is so frustrated since he has other ongoing projects from his other clients. Can the Board suspend a licence while a contractor has other projects? Can he only be penalized and continue with the project without suspending his licence?
HH, Morogoro

Contractors are registered under the Contractors Registration Act, 1997 as amended from time to time (the Act). The said Act established the Contractors Registration Board which is mandated to register contractors and regulate the conduct of contractors. The Board has powers to suspend registration of a contractor for a period that may be specified by the Board or even cancel registration of a contractor. As per section 15 of the Act, among the offences which can amount to suspension of registration of a contractor is if the contractor is found to have been guilty of any act or omission amounting to improper, disgraceful or gross professional misconduct, after due inquiry held by the Board.

In case of a complaint against a contractor, as it is the case in the scenario of your uncle, the Board is required to first conduct an enquiry. The contractor whose conduct is being inquired is entitled to appear and be heard. If the contractor is found guilty the Board can suspend his licence. This seems to be what has happened to your uncle. However please note that if the contractor is aggrieved by a decision of the Board to suspend his registration, he may appeal to the Appeals Authority against the decision of the Board. The Appeals Authority is established by the Act and it consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister,  a nominated member from the Attorney General’s Chambers, two members appointed by the Minister who are not employees of the Ministry of Works, and four other members appointed by the Minister who shall be; one registered practising architect nominated by the Architectural Association of Tanzania; one registered practising quantity surveyor nominated by the Tanzania Institute of Quantity Surveyors; one registered practising engineer nominated by the Association of Consulting Engineers Tanzania; one registered contractor nominated by the Contractor’s Association.

When a matter is referred to the Appeals Authority, the Board may appear as a respondent and be heard on any appeal against its decision. Upon the hearing, the Appeals Authority may give such directions in the matter as it thinks proper. Therefore, if your uncle is aggrieved by the decision of the Board, he may appeal to the Appeals Board. Should he be aggrieved by the decision of the Appeals Board, that is not the end of the matter as the Act allows the party aggrieved by the decision of the Appeals Board to appeal to the High Court. Your uncle should be guided to take the route above but be minded that the suspension will likely remain until the appeals are heard.