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Top 3 Things To Know About Zimbabwe Marriage Laws

How you can avoid a sham wedding ceremony. How to ensure the government “loves” your wedding.

Zimbabwe marriage laws – It is during moments of extreme excitement as what happens during a wedding that you are at untold risk of casting off restraint. This is natural. Emotional and happy moments such as these can easily create situations that will cause you to negatively rub shoulders with the laws of the land.

In Zimbabwe marriage is a legally recognized institution that is therefore legally governed by an Act of Parliament called the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11). This is at least the type of marriage we talk about here at ZimBridal.net whose epitome is your wedding.

It follows that everything that happens on your special day the government is involved by extension in the form of a marriage officer that it has so empowered to legally solemnize your marriage.

Just to clarify a possible area of concern, the constitution of Zimbabwe does not bar marriage of a Zimbabwean to a nationality of any other country. There are however  legal implications on the nationality’s quest for citizenship in Zimbabwe which is not the scope of this particular post.

MARRIAGE OFFICERS

A marriage officer is a man or woman “trained” in understanding the Marriage Act in order to uphold the sanctity of the Marriage Act by attending your wedding ceremony and contracting the two of you in marriage in front of witnesses. This essentially means your marriage is a contract that the marriage officer authorizes on behalf of the government. Marriage officers write certain exams and their conduct is expected to be of highest level devoid of any stains. Apart from being governed by their own unwritten ethics they are also governed primarily by the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11).

According to the laws of Zimbabwe, every magistrate is automatically a marriage officer by virtue of holding the office and remains so for as long as he or she holds that office. He or she is therefore a marriage officer of the district in which he or she holds office. As you might be aware magistrates on a daily basis conduct mass “weddings” which are essentially sessions of solemnization.

Apart from magistrates, the vast majority of marriage officers are ministers of religion appointed by the Minister of Justice under whose ministry the Act is administered. The Act facilitates the designation of individuals of certain religious denominations and organisations to be marriage officers. To cover the diverse population and communities in Zimbabwe, marriage officers solemnize marriages according to Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Hindu rites amongst other religions.

The Minister (of Justice) has the right to revoke the designation of any person as a marriage officer on the basis of misconduct or any other good cause. This is why you are free to lodge a complaint if you feel your ceremony was mishandled. The government provides recourse for prejudiced couples.

In terms of payment for their services, the Marriage Act appears to leave room for only marriage officers who are ministers of religion to “demand or receive any gift or reward” for their services. It has been that many marriage officers do not demand payment but expect certain expenses of their services to be covered such as transportation, food and accommodation. Further some marriage officers even agree to dress-up inline with your wedding theme colors.

In turn most couples offer a token of appreciation which may range from $100 to $200.00 or even more. I personally think it’s an honorable thing to do in appreciation of their public service and also in recognition of the fact that Pastors, Elders, Priests, Reverends and Bishops who do this work have no other formal sources of income, in many cases, to take care of their families.

Therefore a marriage in Zimbabwe can be solemnized by a designated marriage officer (minister of religion) or magistrate only. Update:- the government in 2013 gave indications via the Ministry of Local Government to also empower Traditional Chiefs to solemnize marriages under this act.

By the way, purporting to be a marriage officer carries a penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment if found guilty. under the law.

SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGE

The following is an important point which can easily be overlooked and even drowned in the businesses of planning your forthcoming wedding. In fact you need to make sure your wedding planner has it on his or her check list. It is compulsory to have publication of banns or marriage, to give a public notice of intention to marry or to have a marriage license issued by a magistrate before marriage.

This means you both have essentially four approaches any one of which must be satisfied before you marry. You both must conform to having banns of marriage publication done in church for example. The publication can be through reading or posting on a public notice board in a conspicuous place usually the vicinity of your church i.e on the church building notice board. Often banns are read in church but this does not mean it’s the only way it can be done. If you wish not to have them read out they can be posted on a notice board for all to read for themselves.

Publication of banns of marriage must be done in three unbroken consecutive weeks prior to your wedding (solemnization of your marriage). This is an important requirement and the marriage officer will refuse to carry out any solemnization if this is not done. This may inevitably result in your wedding being pushed further to accommodate the requisite three consecutive weeks. No guessing on the implications!

The other approaches and options besides publication of banns of marriage will be as follows;
a) The bride-to-be and the groom will cause a notice of intention to marry to be published; or
(c) one of the two of you will cause banns of marriage to be published and the other will cause a notice of intention to marry to be published; or
(d) you ensure that a marriage licence has been issued before you marry. You do this at the magistrate’s  court.

These three other options and approaches will take care of the need to have banns published in church or in a religious meeting as is the case in most circumstances in Zimbabwe today.

There are also unique cases were by one of the parties to a proposed marriage in Zimbabwe is resident in a country where there is no requirement for banns of marriage publication. In this case the Marriage Act requires that the marriage officer that will solemnize the marriage in Zimbabwe receive a certificate by an appropriate authority in that country showing that there is no impediment to the proposed marriage in Zimbabwe. The marriage officer is required to satisfy him or herself of the banns of marriage publication requirement in that country.

In the event that both you and your fiancé are based outside of Zimbabwe at the time, you may have banns of marriage published in your respective countries of residence. The Marriage Act regards such a publication as having been done in Zimbabwe. You will however need to produce proof that the publication was actually done and done in accordance with the laws of your country of residence.

One important point you need to note here is that you have exactly three months from the day of your first publication of banns of marriage reading, for example until your wedding ceremony were the marriage will be solemnized. Should this time lapse no marriage can be solemnized on the basis of this particular reading, notice of intention to marry published, or a marriage licence issued. If you paid any fees, these will not be refundable. You will presumably need to start the process over again.

REGISTRATION OF MARRIAGES

This is very important here.  After all the fun and all you will need to ensure that proper procedure has been followed. On an immediate basis after the solemnization of your marriage your marriage officer is required to make an entry of your marriage in the marriage register book which has two duplicate registers of the entry. This is commonly known in our daily speech as the marriage certificate.

Your marriage officer will issue you with a single duplicate original register  (marriage certificate) which bears the signature of the marriage officer, the two of you and that of two witnesses both of ages above eighteen years. Another duplicate original register within 14 days has to be submitted to the Registrar. It is a good idea towards the end of this period to give your marriage officer a call to ensure that this has been done. If you are still away on a lengthy honeymoon include it as an assignment for someone during the planning stages of your wedding.

This is in fact extremely important as I have encountered cases were the duplicate register has not been transmitted to the Registrar months to years later. The longer your marriage officer moves about with it without submitting it, the greater the risk of loss or permanent damage.

You might be wondering what happens to the duplicate register that goes to the Registrar. Well this becomes part of the Marriage Registration Book which you can access for duplicates at any point in future for whatever reason, hopefully not for a heart breaking reason!

This can be considered a summary of key things to know about the marriage laws of Zimbabwe. The Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) is a clear legal document to understand.

You may download it in PDF in its entirety courtesy of Law.co.zw

Zimbabwe Marriage Act Chapter 5 11
Zimbabwe Marriage Act Chapter 5 11
Zimbabwe Marriage Act Chapter 5_11.pdf
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