Muslim Marriages South Africa

Customary Marriages Part 1/3

Why should you register a customary marriage under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act?

Problematic to many customary marriages is lack of a documentary record that the marriage exists. If the husband takes further wives, complications arise in determining who the heirs of the husband are when he passes away. This article discusses why a customary marriage must be registered to protect the claim of a surviving spouse upon her husband’s death.

Per the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998, all customary marriages, whether registered or not are recognised as valid. However, many women only register the customary marriage after their husband dies. Under these circumstances evidence of a customary marriage has to be produced for it to be registered. Often, proof that a customary marriage existed is difficult to establish. Also, the Department of Home affairs lacks the necessary resources to establish the existence of a customary marriage.

Customary Marriages

A customary marriage is recognised as a bond between two families, where the woman becomes a daughter of the family of the husband. Given the ritualistic nature of a customary marriage, these ritualistic practices are not recorded. Unfortunately, many woman suffer when their husband dies, she is forced out of the family leaving her destitute. The husband’s family has to vouch that various ritualistic practices were done for a valid customary marriage to be established. It becomes difficult for the woman to find someone to vouch for the marriage as everyone seeks to protect their own claims to their husband’s estate. If the marriage is unregistered the surviving spouse can lose her share of her husband’s estate when there are disputes about the validity of a customary marriage.

Registered customary marriages are viewed by law as being in community of property. This means the partners to the marriage have equal share to the property they acquired together. The customary marriage registration process is easy; the couple must provide to a registration officer, identity documents, date of marriage, lobolo agreed, and details of prescribed rituals. A registration certificate is issued to the spouses and serves as proof of the existence of a customary marriage. However, if a further marriage is entered into a more complicated process is involved. Requirements for a further customary marriage are not discussed in this article, but essentially the parties will have to approach the court before a further customary marriage can be registered.

Click here to read part 2…

Questions or queries? Complete our Online Consultation or call us on 021 201 7477 for a free telephone consultation. You can also Whatsapp us on 073 776 7911.

Author: Ntiska Sifuba LLB (UWC)
Candidate Attorney

Customary marriages in South Africa are often not registered, leading to complications and disputes when the husband passes away. Registering a customary marriage under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998 is crucial to protect the claims of the surviving spouse upon their partner’s death. This article discusses the importance of registering a customary marriage and the challenges faced by unregistered marriages.

The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act acknowledges all customary marriages, whether registered or not, as valid. However, many women only register the marriage after their husband’s death, which requires them to produce evidence of the marriage’s existence. This can be difficult, as the Department of Home Affairs lacks the necessary resources to establish a customary marriage’s validity.

A customary marriage is a bond between two families, where the woman becomes a daughter of the husband’s family. The ritualistic nature of these marriages means that the practices are not recorded, leading to disputes over the marriage’s validity when the husband dies. If the marriage is unregistered, the surviving spouse may lose their share of their partner’s estate, leaving them in a vulnerable position.

Registering a customary marriage ensures that it is viewed by law as being in community of property, meaning that both partners have an equal share in the property they acquired together. The registration process is straightforward, requiring the couple to provide a registration officer with their identity documents, date of marriage, lobolo agreed, and details of prescribed rituals. A registration certificate is issued, serving as proof of the customary marriage’s existence.

In cases where a husband enters into a further customary marriage, the process becomes more complicated. The parties involved will need to approach the court for the registration of the additional marriage. This article does not delve into the specifics of registering further customary marriages but highlights the importance of protecting spouses’ rights in such situations.

In conclusion, registering a customary marriage in South Africa is essential for protecting the rights of the spouses involved. It ensures that the surviving spouse can claim their fair share of their partner’s estate and prevents disputes over the marriage’s validity.

Send us your query