Professor Chuma Himonga hosts workshop on customary marriage
On the 11th and 12th of February 2014, the National Research Foundation Chair in Customary Law at the University of Cape Town, Professor Chuma Himonga, in collaboration with Dr. Elena Moore and the National Movement of Rural Women, hosted a validation workshop on the preliminary findings of a study on "The Operation of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA) and Rules of Intestate Succession handed down by the Constitutional Court in Bhe v Magistrate Khayelitsha". The Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Pamela Schwikkard, opened the workshop.
After a presentation from the Director of the National Movement of Rural Women, Likhapa Mbatha, the researchers (Chuma Himonga, Elena Moore and Kirsty Button) presented six chapters of the study in which they highlighted some of the key issues that are problematic to the implementation of the RCMA and the Bhe rules of intestate succession.
The findings demonstrate that the ascertainment of the existence of a customary marriage continues to be a difficult matter because of the diversity of views regarding the effect of full or part payment of lobolo on the existence of a valid marriage, and on whether agreement for the payment of lobolo as opposed to actual payment is sufficient to conclude a marriage.
The study also shows that gender equality is not always enhanced by the intervention of family members or traditional leaders. In addition, it highlights how the private regulation of divorce and the dissolution of a customary marriage continue, despite the presence of the RCMA, and it continues to place women and children at risk. Another finding points to the dissonance between the Bhe rules of succession and the practices of inheritance on the ground.
The researchers are following up on some issues that emerged at the workshop as they complete the write up of the findings.
The workshop was attended by a range of legal scholars, sociologists, legal officials, traditional leaders, policy makers and NGO activists.
*This research is supported by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Dept. of Science & Technology and the National Research Foundation. Any opinion, findings and conclusions are that of the authors and therefore the NRF or DST do not accept liability with regard thereto.