customary marriages

How is the current President of South Africa married to more than one wife at the same time?

The Recognition of the Customary Marriages Act allows persons to have more than one marriage with different people concurrently, which is considered polygamous marriages. Customary marriages are mainly different in that they are marriages concluded in accordance with customary laws. Customary laws in turn mean the customs and usages traditionally observed amongst the indigenous African peoples of South Africa.

Requirements that must be met and complied with for a valid customary marriage (since the year 2000):

1. The marriage must be negotiated and entered into giving recognition to the traditions and the customs of the parties.
2. Both parties need to give consent and thus someone who is mentally insane and incapable of giving consent cannot enter into a marriage.
3. Both parties must be competent to marry each other which means they cannot be blood relatives.
4. Both parties must be older than 18 years of age. If either is under 18 years old, then his/ her parents or legal guardian must give consent for them to enter into the marriage.
5. There is no requirement in terms of the Recognition of the Customary Marriages Act that one should pay lobolo, but this is a recognized practice observed amongst the indigenous African people and thus it should be upheld in order to have a valid customary marriage.
6. When parties enter into a customary marriage they have a duty to register the marriage within three months after the marriage was concluded at home affairs. Either spouse may apply to the registering officer for the registration of his or her customary marriage by furnishing the registering officer with their identity documents, the date of their marriage and any lobolo agreed to.
7. A registration certificate will be provided when the registering officer is satisfied that the marriage is a valid customary marriage that came into existence. This registration certificate will be considered proof of the existence of the marriage.

Customary (traditional) and Civil (Western) marriages – must one choose?

One cannot be married in terms of customary law and enter into a civil marriage at the same time with different parties. However, if persons married to each other are married in terms of customary law, they may enter into a civil marriage with each other as well.

It is important to note that just like civil marriages, customary marriages that are entered into after the commencement of the Act (2000), in which a spouse if not a partner in any other existing customary marriage, is a marriage in community of property unless these proprietary consequences are specifically excluded in terms of an ante nuptial contract. Marriages in community of property means that all profit and loss made by either party will be split between both parties equally upon divorce.