A woman, identified as ZK, asked the Eastern Cape High Court (Mthatha) to declare the customary marriage entered into between her deceased father and her stepmother invalid on the grounds of non-compliance with the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.

The Star reports that apart from the bride never being handed over, the daughter said the lobola negotiations were conducted by emissaries who were not members of her family.

The stepmother, on the other hand, said she was legally married to the deceased and her marriage had complied with all the requirements for a valid customary marriage.

The stepmother said she and the deceased had a long relationship before he had proposed marriage. Neither of them was declared mentally unsound, as had been suggested, she said.

The stepmother said lobolo was paid and everything was done according to the book. An amount of R10 000 was paid for two cows and later, an additional R25 000 before she was formally handed over. 

Acting Judge M Motyesi said that under the legislation, the handing over of a bride in a customary marriage had not been formally set out as a requirement.

The judge said that one should also bear in mind that the envisaged ceremonial handing over in a customary marriage was ‘not akin to the off-loading of a cement bag from a truck and handed to a builder. In my view, the envisaged handover could take any form for as long as the final effect is to ensure that both the bridal and groom families have been made reasonably aware that the parties have concluded a customary marriage.’

The judge added that it would serve no purpose to deny recognition of a customary marriage of two adult consenting parties based on demanding strict adherence to some form of rituals and practices, reports The Star.

‘The day has come for an acceptance that a mere symbolic or constructive delivery of the bride is sufficient for confirming that a customary marriage was concluded...’

The judge turned down the application as he found that there was a valid customary marriage.

Full report in The Star