Originally, civil union marriage was referred to in Chapter 37 of the Marriage Act. However, the new Act refers to civil marriage in chapter 5 clause 11. The type of marriage recognised in this section of the act is universally described as a civil union marriage or monogamous union.
The term monogamy is used to describe an exclusive union between no more than two people. Only marriages between a man and a woman are described as civil marriages. A criminal offence called bigamy is committed when either partner attempts to marry another partner while still married to each other.
This offense is punishable by arrest, a sentence of up to 6 months in jail as well as a level 5 fine.
A civil union must be entirely consensual. No individual or couple may be forced into marriage out of fear due to any reason.
The following persons are considered unmarried according to Zimbabwean law:
The payment of lobola is a customary practice and not required for a civil union to be solemnised. Most Zimbabweans will still pay lobola out of respect for the cultural practice, before entering into a civil union.
A civil union that is entered into by a couple, without the payment of lobola, is a legally binding union even without the approval of their parents.
An application for a marriage licence must be made at the nearest Magistrates Court. While making this application, any person may ask that the marriage register is checked to confirm that both partners are legally allowed to marry.
Marriage Banns is a legal requirement for a civil union to be solemnised. This requires that the couples’ intent to marry must be publicly announced by their pastor a total of three times, if they are marrying in a church.
If the marriage is taking place in court, the Marriage Banns are published by the Magistrate. There are no limitations on the time or place that the ceremony may take place as long as the Marriage Officer is in agreement. Marriage by proxy is forbidden; a civil union may only be performed if both partners are present.
Two adults over the age of 18 years are required to attend the ceremony and sign the marriage register to bear witness to the marital union. Only a person who has been designated the legal powers may officiate a civil union marriage ceremony.
After their marriage, a couple will be issued with one original marriage certificate. It’s advised that copies of the certificate are made and kept safe as they will be required in the following cases:
Many people have the idea that civil marriage according to “Chapter 37” may provide them with maximum benefits should they get divorced or their spouse be deceased.
However, as you inherit your partners assets, you also inherit their liabilities. Should your partner leave behind unpaid debt worth millions, that debt automatically and legally becomes yours.
For more information about customary law unions and civil union marriage under the Zimbabwean law, contact our attorneys in Cape Town or Johannesburg.
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