UK court to decide custody of Zimbabwean Tutu grandson

A cloud of controversy shrouds a UK civil court’s decision to decide the custody of a Zimbabwean minor as the mother, Tsitsi*, insists that she will not be part of the proceedings.

Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu

The Royal Courts of Justice’s family division will on Friday, June 26, decide on the fate of the 15 year old Joe*.

The final judgment will be made over two days on July 22 and 23.

Currently, the boy, whose father has been proved to be Desmond Tutu’s son, Trevor, is under the guardianship of a Jamaican woman in the London Borough of Sutton local authority, with a South African based in the UK, JabuSibeko, acting as the social worker.

The mother is questioning the jurisdiction of UK courts to preside over the matter and insists that the custody of Joe, who has shown deviant behavior, must be decided under a United Nations platform.

According to Tsitsi, a Zimbabwean professional with a doctorate in industrial engineering who has worked in several countries including South Africa, Joe left Switzerland where she lived in April this year where he was to visit cousins based in Birmingham.

After that, he was supposed to travel to South Africa for unspecified therapy before proceeding to Zimbabwe where she wants him to resume school in Mutare.

Joe was at one time briefly housed in a social care home in Switzerland after alleging that Tsitsi was abusing him at home, even though the mother told The Zimbabwean that he had developed anti-social behavior and later reversed his claim.

When Joe got to the UK, he reported to the authorities that he needed to be placed in another home as he was still suffering abuse from his mother.

But Tsitsi suspects that the manager from the Swiss home influenced him to do so.

“It seems this was a plot considering that my son had earlier reversed his claim that I was abusing him. Apparently, some people want to use my son to keep making money from charity work, considering, for instance, that the Swiss care home receives huge amounts of money and spends $350 a day on a single child,” Tsitsi told The Zimbabwean in a lengthy interview.

She has vowed not to attend the Friday proceedings and, instead wants her son to be brought to Zimbabwe where he can get his education at an elite school.

“I am fully aware of your wish list in terms of the court proceedings. I have categorically stated that I will not be participating in any of those court proceedings and also explained in court why,” stated Tsitsi in a letter to Sibeko dated June 15.

In May, the court sat and decided that Joe must remain under foster care following allegations of abuse when he reported his case when he visited from Switzerland, following an application by the London Borough of Sutton and in terms of the UK Family Law Act of 1996.

There are four possible fates for Joe, namely being given back to his mother who is currently in Zimbabwe or to sister residing in Canada, remaining in foster care in England or returning to Switzerland.

The UK could offer him asylum under the pretext that his rights are being violated because his mother is forcing him to go to Africa against his wish.

“Returning to Switzerland is scandalous,” said Tsitsi, “because he (Joe) will continue to spiral down. If he could leave the Swiss care home at will and engage in deviant behavior, what will stop that now? In any case, neither he (Joe) nor I no longer holds a Swiss residence permit.

“Canada is not an option because he cannot go and live with my daughter (his sister). The two have not maintained a close relationship since she moved out to live on her own. She does not have an income, got recently married and the husband who is supposed to help her take care of Joe has not yet even immigrated to Canada,” said Tsitsi.

Despite that, the 27 year old Canada-based sister last week officially wrote to Sibeko to express her readiness to take care of Joe even though she acknowledged she is without a job and her relationship with her brother “neutral”.

“My son must just come to live with me. He doesn’t deserve further traumatization through these official processes. The wayward behavior he has displayed in the past is due to an identity crisis considering that his father never showed interest in him.

“Worse still, his grandparents (Desmond Tutu and his wife) have never publicly acknowledged that he is their grandson yet, daily, other kids address him as such and his grandfather is internationally seen as a black hero,” said Tsitsi.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is internationally seen as a human rights activist who campaigns for the well-being of children, among other causes.

Tsitsi met Trevor Tutu in 1999 while working in South Africa and the subsequent relationship resulted in pregnancy.

Even though South African courts have ordered him to pay maintenance, he is in arrears of close to $40, 000 and the authorities this week wrote to Tsitsi saying they could not enforce the settlement of the arrears and continued payment of money for Joe’s upkeep.

  • Not their real names

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