Zvamaida Murwira, Harare Bureau
Government has extended the role of marriage officers to include traditional and religious leaders such as Vapostori as it seeks to liberalise the solemnisation of unions.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the Marriages Act will be repealed and replaced with one consolidated Marriages Amendment Bill which will also criminalise marrying a girl below the age of 18 and pledging of minors for marriage. The bill is part of a cocktail of civil and political liberties being undertaken by President Mnangagwa under the Second Republic.
Minister Ziyambi said this yesterday in Harare while addressing journalists during a post Cabinet briefing that was chaired by Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, who was standing in for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa.
“We have also extended marriage officers to include chiefs and other religious leaders, the Hindus, Moslems, Vapostori they are now allowed to solemnise marriages in their religious sectors and these marriages if there is more than one wife it will be regarded as customary marriage. We have also now included civil partnership; they are now recognised in this Act. What used to happen on dissolution of this partnership, the other partner was losing out; so it is now recognised as a marriage for purposes of dissolution of property when the partnership is dissolved,” said Minister Ziyambi.
He said Cabinet had approved the Marriages Amendment Bill which will criminalise the marriage of children under the age of 18 years.
“Basically the major changes pertaining to the age of marriage as you know we had a Constitutional Court judgment that said marriages should be 18 years and above and we are going to operationalise that. This is to ensure that minors are protected and this extends not only to civil marriages but customary marriages and civil partnerships because others might try to circumvent the law,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“The other major highlights is that it clearly outlaws the pledging of children by anyone. This has clearly been put into the law. We have also consolidated the marriage law, we no longer have two marriage laws but it will state that the first one is the civil marriage and another one is customary marriage.”
Earlier on Minister Mupfumira said the Bill sought to prohibit same sex marriages and provided for free and full consent marriage by intending partners.
Meanwhile, members of the apostolic sect have welcomed Government decision to allow them to solemnise marriages.
Council of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe president Bishop Clement Chisango said churches and traditional leaders had their own traditional values which would be observed during solemnisation of marriages.
“It has been very difficult for most of us to solemnise marriages because of the conditions imposed by the Registrar General’s office and with these amendments on the horizon we are delighted by what our Government is doing. We are indigenous churches with our own values and while we will be bound by the law we also have our own values peculiar to our sects hence the need to allow us to preside over our members’ marriage ceremonies,” said Bishop Chisango, who leads the Ebenezer Holy Apostolic Church.
Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs deputy president Chief Mtshana Khumalo lauded the decision to allow traditional leaders to solemnise marriages.
“People are travelling long distances. The proposed law will obviously be convenient particularly to those in the rural areas. People are forking out a lot of money in transport and accommodation among other related costs to go to the nearest city or town for their marriages. Although we have not had sight of the Bill we support such initiatives,” said Chief Khumalo
Bulawayo-based traditionalist Mr Pathisa Nyathi described the development as positive.
“That is a positive development. It is only those who have colonial mind who will oppose it. There are some people who believe that there is nothing indigenous people can do. As a traditionalist I heartily support it,” said Mr Nyathi.