Payment of lobola before marriage under customary union is now mandatory after Parliament passed the Marriages Amendment Bill on Tuesday with a clause empowering marriage officers to ascertain whether bride price was paid.
The Bill will also protect a spouse in a civil partnership from the legally married partner so that he or she does not unfairly lose property acquired during the subsistence of their union in the event that the union has been terminated either due to death or other reasons.
It is, however, the clause on lobola that has drawn attention and saw disagreements as Government, represented by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi argued 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 Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira were of the view that lobola constituted the hallmark of marriage under customary union as failure to uphold it would undermine cultural values.
The issue came back in Senate last week after Minister Ziyambi engaged traditional leaders outside Parliament to narrow differences.
In Senate sitting last week, Clause 16 of the Bill sailed through with little debate after both parties agreed to include lobola as a pre-condition to solemnise customary marriage.
The Bill now require marriage officers who also include traditional leaders to ask both couples including witnesses who must be relatives, if bride price was paid.
The Clause, which was proposed by Chief Charumbira now reads as follows: “A marriage officer in a customary law marriage shall 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.”
There is also another new Clause in the Bill which requires that traditional leaders should undergo training in administering marriage rites before becoming marriage officers.
Although both Minister Ziyambi and traditional leaders agreed on the need for training, there was a heated debate on how it was couched as the later felt that it gave the Minister veto powers not to confer some of them the status to become marriage officers.
The contested Clause read as follows: “No later than four months from the date of commencement of this Act, or from the date of investiture of any chief, as the case may be, the Minister shall (in accordance with such conditions, including the completion of a prescribed course of instruction) ensure that every chief is certified as competent to carry out the duties of a marriage officer for the purposes of solemnising marriages according to customary rites.”
Traditional leaders were not comfortable with the inclusion of the word “conditions” as they felt that the responsible Minister might include certain instructions which might undermine their roles as marriage officers.https://masvingomirror.com