There has been a lot of inexplicable excitement over the latest text in the new Marriage Bill which seeks to simply and combine the Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07)and the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11). You have probably heard people asking each other under what chapter (7 or 11) were they married. These chapters have led to much confusion and chaos in the past the government just wants to make it simple.

This should be a routine process but it has been anything but. Clauses from the acts have been the subject of much speculation and twisted interpretation at times the authors have been forced to relent and redo them. First, it was the”small house” clause which some misinformed religious leaders claimed would lead to immorality and polygamy making a comeback. Both things are already possible under the Customary Marriages Act and being legal has not made them popular at all.

Now there is furore over a clause that supposedly bans lobola or roora. The clause does nothing of the sort, all it does is seek to remove undue leverage on the part of parents of the bride by making the bride’s price optional in a customary marriage union. According to Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi:

The transfer of marriage consideration (lobola) in our indigenous culture traditionally solidified bonds between families, but a disturbing trend has developed over time to commoditise or monetise the marriage relationship for material gain.

Some guardians of brides hold out for the highest possible gain for themselves, while others refuse consent to the formalisation of marriage until the last cent of the marriage consideration is paid.

This is why so many of our customary and non-customary marriages are unregistered. To solve this issue, the Bill will no longer require a customary marriage officer to satisfy himself or herself that there has been an agreement on the transfer of marriage consideration.

Hon Ziyambi on the matter

It is already possible to get married without lobola

For some strange reason people don’t seem to know that it is already possible at the moment to get married under Zimbabwe law (Chapter 5:11) without the need to pay lobola. That has always been there.What the new law does is extend this to customary marriages. So unless of course you want to practice polygammy in which case you currently have to pay roora and get your marriage solemnised under the Customary Marriages Act, you don’t need to pay lobola.