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Legal perspectives: A Look Into types of marriages in Zim

Marry
‘Chiwenga’ marriage fraud case: A Look Into types of marriages in Zim

With Fidelicy Nyamukondiwa

Marry Mubaiwa, the enstranged
wife of Vice President Chiwenga recently made headlines after being arrested inter alia for allegations of
fraudulently attempting to
upgrade
their Unregistered Customary Law Union (UCLU) into a Civil Marriage.  This article explores the types of marriages
recognised in Zimbabwe.
Unregistered Customary Law
Union
The majority of marriages in Zimbabwe are UCLUs. There is
no marriage certificate for an UCLU because it is legally not a marriage. The
law however recognises it for purposes such as maintenance and custody of
children. It comes into being through a
roora/lobola
ceremony. In Hosho v Hasisi
HH 491/15
, the
High Court reemphasized that the customary meaning accorded to this type of
marriage revolves on the payment of lobola.
Parties
to an UCLU can agree to upgrade it into a Customary or Civil Marriage. Mary
Mubaiwa is alleged to have attempted to register their UCLU into a Civil Marriage
purporting that the VP had consented to the upgrade when in actual fact he had
not. The way UCLU can be dissolved varies with custom. In most Shona customs it
involves payment of a divorce token known as ‘gupuro’. It is however permissible to have an UCLU dissolved by a
court especially where disputes concerning the sharing of matrimonial property
arises.
Customary
Marriage
A Customary Marriage is solemnised
in terms of the Customary Marriages Act [Chapter 5:07] and like an UCLU it
can be polygamous. It is solemnised by a customary marriage officer who can
either be a magistrate or an official/chief appointed as a marriage officer by
the Justice Minister. Proof of its existence is a marriage certificate. A
Customary Marriage can be converted into a Civil Marriage but the latter cannot
be converted into the former. A Customary Marriage is dissolved by an order of
a magistrate.
Civil
Marriage
Civil Marriages used to
be solemnised in terms of a statute then known as Marriage Act [Chapter 37]. It is as a result of the foregoing that
some people still call them “Chapter 37”. They are now solemnised in terms of
the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] and are
monogamous. A magistrate or other legally designated marriage officer such as a
priest or a pastor solemnises Civil Marriages. It cannot be ‘downgraded’ into
an UCLU. A Civil Marriage can only be dissolved by an order of a High Court
judge.
About Cohabitation
Cohabitation
is when a man and a woman stay together as husband and wife without payment of
lobola nor registration of the union. This is commonly referred to as small
houses, kubika/kuchaya mapoto or ukuhlalisana.
Clause 40 of the Marriage Bill, 2019 which
stirred a public outcry mid last year sought to legalise cohabitation.
 Conclusion
Civil Marriages and
Customary Marriages are the legally recognized marriages in Zimbabwe. UCLUs are
technically not marriages but are legally recognized for other purposes. The
gazetted Marriage Bill, 2019 if
passed into law will harmonise Zimbabwe’s marriage laws and align them to the
Constitution.
Fiat
Justitia Ruat Caelum!
Nyamukondiwa Fidelicy writes in his
personal capacity. He holds a Diploma in Law and is a former Public Prosecutor
at Masvingo Magistrates Court. He is a LLB (HONS) student at Herbert Chitepo
Law School. Contactable on 0785827154 /nhanyams@yahoo.com.

TellZimNewshttps://tellzim.com
TellZim News is the leading news organization in the Southern region. It provides candid, balanced and timely news from the communities. Keeping it real. Committed to tell Zimbabwe.

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