What are the legal requirements for a customary marriage? Experts weigh in

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Pabi Moloi
Pabi Moloi
Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • This week, Ruan Adams reportedly claimed he married Pabi Moloi and now wants a divorce.
  • He is also reportedly demanding 50 percent of the media personality's estate.
  • Reports note that Pabi denies being married to him.

On Sunday, 10 April 2022, reports alleged that Ruan Adams, who claims to be Pabi Moloi’s husband, wants a divorce from the TV and radio host, after having paid lobola. However, Pabi insists there was never a marriage.

According to Sunday World, Ruan is demanding that his marriage to Pabi be dissolved and is claiming 50 percent of her estate on the basis of having paid lobola for her, which he says is legally recognised as a customary marriage in community of property. Thus, refuting Pabi’s claim of being single and never having been married to him in terms of civil or customary law.

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Additionally, Ruan is reportedly demanding spousal support of R8500 to “maintain the luxurious lifestyle” he says Pabi acclimatised him to during their marriage.

However, Pabi reportedly denies having been married to Ruan. According to IoL, through a statement by her lawyer, Pabi insists she never married Ruan. 

TRUELOVE got in contact with Lesedi Mphahlele, director at Fairbridges Wertheim Becker Attorneys, to unpack the legal requirements of a customary marriage.

He says, “Before delving into the requirements of a legally valid customary marriage in South Africa, it’s important that we establish what a customary marriage is in terms of the act. Section 1 of the RCMA defines a customary marriage as a marriage that has been concluded in accordance with customary law, while on the other side ‘Customary law’ refers to the customs and usages traditionally observed amongst the indigenous African people of South Africa, which form part of the culture of those people.”

Lesedi says certain requirements propagated by the RCMA in terms of its Section include:

1. Both parties to the marriage must be above the age of eighteen years;

2. Both parties must consent to being married under customary law; and

3. The marriage must be negotiated, celebrated and entered into in accordance with customary law

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He further states that the registration of such a marriage is equally important because the marriage has to be registered within three months after its conclusion.

“A registering officer ought to be approached by either of the spouses to register the marriage and issue a certificate. The certificate will serve as proof of marriage. However, the failure to register the marriage does not affect the validity of the marriage.”

Thenjiwe Mpanza of T.Mpanza Attorneys also states that because a customary marriage is a marriage in community of property, this means that everything a party owns, whether it was acquired before or after the marriage, forms part of the joint estate.

“Upon divorce, the joint estate will be divided equally between the parties. Unless the parties prior to the customary marriage have entered into an Antenuptial contract (an agreement that couples enter into if they do not want to get married in community of property and is concluded before marriage). Lastly, to end a customary marriage, one would have to approach the court to terminate the marriage.”, she adds.

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