The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 120 of 1998, that came into operation on 15 November 2000, gives full legal recognition to customary marriages in South Africa. The following summarises the position:
So what proof do you have that you are married under customary law if you haven’t registered the marriage at the Department of home affairs? Do you have a written contract in place, formalising the agreement between the parties?
There have been several cases where parties had to go to court to ask for an order declaring that they had been married. For example, in the case of Motsoatsoa v Roro and Others the ‘wife’ asked for an order declaring that a customary marriage existed between her and her late ‘husband’. The court found that, in fact, no customary marriage was entered into between the applicant and the deceased.
In the matter of Southon v Moropane the applicant sought an order that she was married to the respondent. The court agreed and found:
Having considered all of the factual matrix, the testimony of the witnesses, the experts’ testimony, the academic writings, case law, practices in the community and the authorities, in my view the essentials of a customary marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant in terms of s 3(1) of the Recognition Act were fulfilled. Both parties consented to marry each other according to customary law, and their marriage was negotiated, celebrated and entered into in accordance with customary law.
Why should it be necessary to go to court, at huge expense and at great risk, to prove that you are married? If you haven’t registered the marriage at Home Affairs, do so. Alternatively, put together a Lobola agreement.
We believe that this will help thousands of people who have entered into a customary marriage but now do not have any proof. This would secure the future of their children in case anything happens to the breadwinner and will also prevent family conflict as the assets of the deceased would automatically be the assets of the surviving spouse and the children.
The agreement would record the intention of the parties about their traditional wedding. The document would be a simple contract which would reflect:
If you would like our help in putting together an agreement, confirming that you are, indeed, married, and to formalise things, please email Roy Bregman for a quotation.
Bregman Moodley Attorneys Inc. 2015/089214/21
Physical Address: Suite 314, 3rd Floor, Office Towers, Killarney Mall, 60 Riviera Road, Killarney, Johannesburg, South Africa
Directors: Roy Bregman, Sharusha Moodley & Benita Dayaljee
Associates: Melani Scholtz, Renthia Neethling & Abdul Buckus