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Law must formalise customary marriage divorce token | The Herald

When people are making wedding arrangements about which portion of the guests will get to eat the coleslaw salad; the last thing one plans for is for another woman to bolt in to stop the marriage.

After the high table and the satin decorations, the day is soon soured after the second woman alleges that; firstly, they are still married to the groom and secondly, that the wedding should not continue. The issue of gupuro has always been part of our African culture and yet the stories in the media show that not everybody has timeously acknowledged this procedure.

Under our customary law, when a person no longer wishes to be part of customary marriage, aside from showing their intention by word of mouth; they should give a rejection token known as “gupuro”. This token is generally not of much value but it serves as evidence that one party no longer wishes to remain in the customary union.

To understand the issue of dissolution of marriage, we have to have a grasp of the kinds of marriages that are recognised in Zimbabwe. We have the civil marriage under the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:11) and it is monogamous in nature, which means that you are legally bound to one man and one woman for the rest of your life until either of you dies or you decide to divorce.

The second is the registered customary law marriage which allows for the husband to have more than one wife provided that after they register the first wife, they do the same with the other wives. In reality however, we still have people in unregistered customary law unions whereby only lobola was paid and the parties co-existed for all practical purposes as husband and wife and this is the area where most issues arise.

Without diverting from the essence of this discussion, the unregistered customary law union is only recognised as a valid marriage for the purposes of inheritance, bigamy, loss of support, custody, guardianship, property sharing and adultery. For all other purposes, it is not recognised as a legal marriage in Zimbabwe. That in itself already sets it apart. The question we ask is therefore, is gupuro the equivalent of divorce under an unregistered customary law union? With the civil marriage, the law provides a mechanism for divorce under the Matrimonial Causes Act (Chapter 5:13) which contrary to popular belief does not mandate either party to the marriage to give the other a token of rejection.

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