‘Lobola still required for customary union’: Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi

LOBOLA remains a requirement for registration of a customary marriage under the new Marriages Act, although not for registration of a civil marriage, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said yesterday.

The new Marriages Act was enacted last year following the repeal and amalgamation of laws governing civil and customary marriages.

Minister Ziyambi’s clarification follows an article published in sections of the media this week saying the payment of lobola was now optional, but not a legal requirement.

Most Zimbabwean marriages start with a customary union, which these days have been rarely registered, and then are registered as civil unions.

The new Marriages Act united the two older Acts, and created a path for a monogamous couple with a registered customary union to change this to a registered civil union, something impossible when the two marriage Acts were held to be exclusive.

“What the new Marriages Act did was to repeal all marriage laws; that is the Civil Marriages Act and the Customary Marriages Act,” Minister Ziyambi said.

“Under the Civil Marriages Act, which came with the whites, questions were not asked whether lobola was paid or not if the marriage was to be registered and this is still the case under the new law, if the union is to be registered as a civil marriage.

“For customary unions, payment of lobola still remains a requirement and marriage officers, who now include traditional leaders, registering such a union, still have to ascertain if lobola has been paid before it is registered. So, it’s not correct to say lobola is now optional under the new law.”

The issue of lobola dominated proceedings during debate of the new Marriages Act in Parliament, with Chiefs in the Senate objecting to a clause that had been proposed, which provided that bride price could not be used as a barrier for two consenting adults to a union as that would violate their constitutional right to association.

Traditional leaders led by the then Chiefs Council president, Chief Fortune Charumbira, were of the view that lobola constituted the hallmark of marriage under a customary union and failure to uphold it would undermine cultural values.

Ultimately, the chiefs prevailed resulting in the insertion of a clause that made it mandatory for a marriage officer presiding over a customary law marriage, “to put to either of the parties to a proposed marriage or to the witnesses any questions relevant to the identity or conjugal status of the parties to the proposed marriage, to the agreement relating to lobola or roora, if any, and to the existence of impediments to the marriage.”

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