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Lobola not a legal requirement for customary marriage

The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (“RCMA”) became law on 15 November 2000. If you were in an existing customary marriage before this date, your marriage is still recognised under the new law, as the RCMA has retrospective effect.http://hometimes.co.za/advertise-with-hometimes/

As a result, the RCMA regulates all customary marriages entered into before and after the Act, and also sets out the requirements which must be met in order for a customary marriage to be recognised.

A customary marriage is recognised as valid if the parties to the marriage have complied with the following requirements:

  • both parties to the marriage must be above the age of 18 years;

  • both parties must consent to being married under customary law;

  • the marriage must be negotiated, celebrated and entered into in accordance with the parties’ relevant customs; and

  • lobola is not a necessary requirement for the validity of the customary marriage. However, if it is paid, it goes a step further to proving that the marriage was negotiated in accordance with custom.

Registration of the marriagepolygamy

Subsequent to the commencement of the RCMA, all customary marriages conducted before or after 15 November 2000 must be registered with the Department of Home Affairs. In a case where a party was married after the law was passed, they should register their marriage within three months after the date of the marriage.

It is important to note that since the commencement of the RCMA, if the customary marriage is monogamous – meaning there is only one wife – failure to register the marriage does not invalidate the marriage. However, failure to register any subsequent marriages will invalidate these marriages. Hence, non-registration of customary marriages when there is more than one wife will invalidate all marriages, except that of marriage to the first wife. Registration is therefore encouraged as it constitutes prima facie proof of the existence of a customary marriage.

Even though customary marriages should be registered within three months of the date of the marriage, parties who miss this date may still register their marriage by approaching the Department of Home Affairs.

On the date of registration of the marriage, the following people should present themselves at the Department of Home Affairs:

  • the two spouses (with copies of their valid identity books and a lobola agreement, if available);

  • at least one witness from the bride’s family;

  • at least one witness from the groom’s family; and/or

  • the representative of each of the families.

The customary marriage will then be registered by completing Form BI-1699 and paying the required fees. An acknowledgement of receipt called Form BI-1700 will then be issued by the Department of Home Affairs.

Matrimonial regime applicable to customary marriagesmonopoly community of property

Irrespective of registration or not, all customary marriages where there is one husband and one wife, whether entered into before or after the coming into operation of the RCMA, are deemed to be “in community of property” [Gumede v President of the Republic of South Africa 2009 (3) BCLR 243 (CC)].

“In community of property” means that the husband and wife will have an equal share in all the assets of the estate and also means that they will share all of the debts. Their capacities to contract will also be limited in accordance with the usual limitations which apply to “in community of property” civil marriages.

The parties would have to enter into an ante-nuptial contract prior to the customary marriage if they would like to be married “out of community of property”. The ante-nuptial contract will state what marital property regime the parties would like to be married in accordance with, namely “‘out of community of property”, either with, or without the application of the accrual system as applies in civil marriages.

Changing the matrimonial property regime

If parties who were married in accordance with customary law wish to change their marital regime after they are already married, they will have to apply to the High Court in terms of Section 21 of the Matrimonial Property Act 88 of 1984. This application is done by way of affidavit, incorporating a proposed post-nuptial contract.

In addition to the affidavit and post-nuptial contract, notice must also be given to all of the parties’ creditors as part of the application. This is to ensure that none of the creditors will be prejudiced by the new “out of community of property” regime, and if they do feel that they will be prejudiced, they will be able to object to the application.

Closing thoughts

It is recommended that all customary marriages, whether entered into before or after the Act, be registered at the Department of Home Affairs. This is especially important if the marriage results in two or more wives to the union, so as to ensure that the subsequent marriages are recognised in accordance with the Act.

It is also recommended that parties consider the financial implications of their union, and whether they wish to be “in community of property” or “out of community of property”.

The purpose of the Act is to ensure equal rights to those married in accordance with customary law. However, the responsibility of registering the marriage, and entering into an antenuptial contract, lies with the couple who are to marry.


Words: Megan Harrington-Johnson, Partner at Schindlers Attorneys

Megan Harrington-Johnson, Partner at Schindlers Attorneys.

Megan Harrington-Johnson, Partner at Schindlers Attorneys.



Review overview
  • molebo 5th February 2017

    Write your comment here..if lobola nd small ceremony of welcoming makoti in a yard has being done.does it maens its a under customary marriage or civic? if its customary marriage can I apply for antiump contract cause I have being married for a month ?

  • mmereki 7th April 2017

    what do you mean when you say lobola is not a requirement? because one of the requirements to conclude a valid customery marriage is that there must be negotiations between the groom’s family and the bride’s family…what does the term “negotiation” mean in this case?

  • Linky 5th May 2017

    What if half the lobola was paid and the man passed on before the marriage is celebrated and the wife is pregnant. They were staying together

    • Beverly Tema 2nd July 2017

      If I was married with half lobola for five year and we separate what the laws says

    • FB 16th September 2018

      For a recognition of customary marriage all 4 steps must been completed for it to be recognised. 1Negotiations
      2 Celebration
      4Familes must present the two to both families
      4 It must be registered in 3 month on B form at home affairs.
      Then in that case recognition is given.

  • THABELO MUTHEVHULI 6th July 2017


  • Thabelo 13th September 2017

    Go and consult with an attorney and file for a divorce. I by profession am an legal counsel, should you wish to be assisted further, email me at muthevhulithabelo@gmail.com

  • Itumeleng Serathi 27th September 2017

    How do I delete the information in this post

  • Itumeleng Serathi 27th September 2017

    On the post of the 13September 2017
    High Times please assist please with deleting that post. Thapelo I will contact you.

    • David A Steynberg 28th September 2017


  • Lebo 19th December 2017

    Hi i need help we’ve been living together for 6 years he only paid half lobola we have a six years old daughter.He is change he doesn’t want me any more he is chasing me out of the house.what can i do.

    • THABELO MUTHEVHULI 21st December 2017

      Good evening.
      It is a fact of note that lobola is a legal requirement for validity of the customary marriage. However, lobola needs not to be paid in full for the customary marriage to be recognized under our law. For instance, if the lobola price was R20 000.00 and only R5000.00 has been paid, you are regarded as married under customary law which therefore means that if your spouse/partner is parting ways with you, such seperation can only be regulated under the court of law. And take note that should you take the matter of divorce lightly and decide to just leave with no decree of divorce, whatever marriage that you may enter into thereafter will be null and void. In other words, you need to file divorce.

      • David A Steynberg 17th January 2018

        Hi Thabelo,
        Please email david@hometimes.co.za. I have a business proposal for you.

        • THABELO MUTHEVHULI 17th January 2018

          Good day.

          I am pleased to hear that you have a business proposal for me. I would like to hear about it.

          Hope you find the above in order.

          kindest regards,
          Muthevhuli T

  • Mdoko 22nd February 2018

    I need advise here please…
    He only paid Lobola and we never got married legally.
    He has not been working for almost 10 years, was financially dependent on me, my first property was on my name and so is the current one. It came to a point where I was financially strained and got sick (mental disturbance) because of the situation. Physiologists advised that I separate with him for my sanity. I went to court to apply for protection order which I couldn’t because they considered the relationship as marriage. We have three kids, after my court application he made sure he gets a job, now he is employed and still not supporting or paying towards the bond, we still attending court, Question here is: am I going to share my properties and/or assets with him even if he never contributed a cent in obtaining them? What about my provident fund?

  • Shoeshoe Mopeli 1st September 2018

    my partner is a Lesotho citizen and he paid a lobola in full for me in 1990 and we never entered into a civil union. until he died in 1995. i stay in South Africa and i have land in Lesotho. Do i have citizenship rights in Lesotho in terms of customer law

  • Daphne 9th November 2018

    my daughter is no longer iterested to he fiance due to some personal differencies they have. He paid half lobola, after that problem started, they do not have a property or own anything to their names. He stays with his parents and unemployed not even interested to find himself a job, and we stay with my daughter support her 1 year old son. Do you call this a marriage?

  • Zondi 17th November 2018

    He paid half Lobola and we have two years baby and separated after two months he died in car accident what is my situation

  • Alex Nxumlao 13th December 2018

    I m South African and I paid 3/4 of the lobola to a lady from Zim, we moved together in RSA in 2005 and we are partying ways now, i have properties and my question is this deemed as in community of property