What the new customary marriages law means for your finances

Image: Vuku'zenzele Publication

 Johannesburg, South Africa: August 2019: The South African Government handed women in South Africa a wonderful gift just in time for Women’s Month when it passed a new bill that provides for the equal treatment of women in monogamous and polygamous customary marriages.

Cabinet approved an amendment to the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA) recently, which essentially gives women who entered into monogamous and polygamous customary marriages prior to 2000 equal rights to marital property.

The bill follows a 2018 Constitutional Court order which declared certain sections of the Recognition of customary law Act of 1998 (RCMA) invalid. The court gave Parliament two years to remedy the law’s defects and discriminatory clauses. This amendment benefits women who were married under customary law before the year 2000 as the introduction of the RCMA did not apply retrospectively. Women did not have equal rights in the old regime.

Marriages are solemn occasions and one of the most memorable days in the life of a couple. And if the proceedings are customary, the revelry brings the whole community to your doorstep only eager to participate and contribute.

However, the legal implications of this big step should not be forgotten in the rush to plan the perfect day, says John Manyike, Head of Financial Education, Old Mutual.

“Couples intending to get married, especially by customary rites need to understand  customary marriage amounts to marriage in community of property and that a lobola letter alone does not necessarily prove that you have concluded a customary marriage, couples need to solemnize the customary marriage through a customary celebration and proceed to register the marriage with home affairs .”

John Manyike, Head of Financial Education, Old Mutual

In terms of the law, a valid customary law must satisfy 3 requirements, i.e

  1. The parties must consent to customary marriage in accordance to customary law,
  2. Parties must be older than 18 years or have parental consent
  3. Marriage must be negotiated an entered into or celebrated according to customary law.

In court cases where the existence of a customary marriage is disputed by one party on grounds that lobular was not paid in full, Judges generally do not entertain that defence for as long as lobular was fixed.

“Hindsight has no place in the journey to securing your future,” Manyike cautions. Your estate and your retirement fund could be at stake if you enter into marriage in community of property without properly applying your mind.

This basic guide is as important as the guest list as you journey together towards a blissful future.

  • Choosing between white wedding or customary marriage
  • Deciding which marriage regime works for you
  • Historical debt and credit profile
  • Household budgets
  • Financial planning