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South Africa’s marriage systems are as varied as our cultures.

This has been recognised by our courts and the legislature, particularly in terms of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998.

Subject to complying with the following, Customary Marriages are recognised as valid and legal and subject to Inheritance and Divorce Laws :

1.The marriage must be negotiated, entered into or celebrated in accordance with customary law. This means that the marriage must be entered into in line with the traditions and customs of the parties.

2.The parties who are getting married must be 18 years or older. If one or more of the parties are minors (below the age of 18 years), both his/her parents or legal guardian must give consent to the marriage.

3.The parties must also be competent to marry each other, meaning that they must not be blood relatives. For example, a brother and sister are not allowed to marry each other.

4.Both parties’ consent is required for the marriage to be valid. A person who cannot give consent, such as a mentally insane person, will not be able to get married.

5.The marriage must be lawful.

  • The payment of lobolo is not a specific requirement in terms of the Act, but it is considered to be part of practice when concluding a customary marriage.
  • There is a duty on parties in a customary marriage to register the marriage within three months after the conclusion of the marriage at the Department of Home Affairs.
  • If the registering officer is satisfied that a valid customary marriage has come into existence, the customary marriage will be registered and the parties will be provided with a registration certificate.
  • This registration certificate will be proof of the existence of the customary marriage and may avoid disputes that might occur in the future.
  • The Act allows a person to have more than one marriage with different persons at the same time (polygamous marriages). Polygamous marriages can only be legal if all the marriages are customary marriages. A person is not allowed to have a customary marriage and a civil marriage at the same time with different parties; however, a couple who is married with each other in terms of customary law, may enter into a civil marriage with each other as well.

For any advice on your marital regime or the consequences of marriage please contact our offices on 031 003 0630 or email Liza@schwenninc.co.za.