Court name
High Court of Tanzania

Mwendwa Mtinangi vs Juma Mahumbi () [1984] TZHC 44 (22 November 1984);

Law report citations
1984 TLR 47 (TZHC)
Media neutral citation
[1984] TZHC 44

Lugakingira, J.: The respondent sued the appellant before the Primary Court for adultery claiming compensation of seven head of cattle. The adultery was found established but the respondent was awarded two head of cattle only. He appealed to the District Court against the measure of  C compensation and the court allowed the appeal, awarding him seven head of cattle or 7,000/= as originally prayed. That prompted the present appeal.
In deciding as he did, the learned appellate magistrate proceeded on two grounds. Firstly, he was of  D the view that the trial court's award was invalid because only one of the two assessors did express his opinion on the question of compensation. Secondly, he considered it an aggravating factor attracting enhanced compensation the fact that the appellant "alimtwaa Fatuma (the  E respondent's wife) na kuishi naye nyumbani kwake, na kadhalika."
I have given consideration to these grounds but I think, with respect, that they proceed on a misapprehension of the law. First of all, it is true one of the assessors expressed no opinion on compensation on the quantum thereof. However, it has to be appreciated that decisions in Primary  F Courts proceed on the majority view, and this includes the view of the trial magistrate. In this case, the trial magistrate adopted the view of one of the assessors in the course of judgment and this, to my mind, made that view a majority view. I am thus unable to agree with the appellate magistrate that  G the award was invalid for to say so presupposes that the trial magistrate had no vote, which is incorrect. In my judgment an award of a Primary Court is a valid award so long as it proceeds on a majority view even if one of the assessors does not express his opinion thereon. It is in fact interesting that the assessor who was silent on compensation signed the judgment. In effect,  H therefore, the award was unanimous.
Next, I do not see, really, how the appellant's act of cohabiting with the respondent's wife constituted an aggravating factor. After all, that was the adultery complained of. The appellate  I magistrate expressed anxiety that the respondent's marriage was imperilled,

  A but I cannot see the significance of this since, in fact, that is the effect of adultery. Perhaps more unfortunate is that the learned magistrate's reaction overlooked the local (Nyaturu) law on the subject. According to the assessor who expressed himself on the matter, the customary   B compensation for adultery is one calf. The assessor then suggested the imposition of an additional cow because of the trouble the appellant had occasioned to the respondent. In other words, the second cow was good way of exemplary or punitive damages. The trial court thus considered the law and the surrounding circumstances in awarding the compensation it did. I think there is   C authority for saying that where the decision of a Primary Court is based on the local customary law that decision cannot be interfered with on appeal unless the law on which it is based is patently unconscionable. I find nothing unconscionable in the Nyaturu law on this subject. On this ground,   D too, the decision of the District Court is difficult to support.
The decision of the trial court may be criticized in one aspect. The court also ordered Fatuma to return to the respondent and even threatened her and the appellant with criminal proceedings if she   E did not comply with the order. That order was unlawful in view of the provisions of section 140 of the Marriage Act, 1971. Under no circumstances is a court empowered to compel cohabitation.
I allow the appeal with costs, set aside the judgment of the District Court and restore the judgment of the Primary court. The respondent will have his 2000/= which I gather is already paid into the   F Primary Court. However, I set aside the order compelling Fatuma to return to the respondent.
Appeal allowed