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An SANDF soldier living in Thaba Tshwane obtained permission from the Pretoria High Court for the Department of Home Affairs to recognise as valid his customary marriages to three wives and to register the marriages accordingly.
Theophilus Thotha, 51, said in papers before court that while he entered into the three marriages, his wives and he omitted to register the marriages with Home Affairs in accordance with the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.
He stated they did not know that the cut-off date by which to register such marriages was December 31, 2010.
“The reason why we have omitted to register our marriages was because we were unaware that we were compelled to do so by legislation and we assumed an affidavit by any one of us would be sufficient proof of the existence of the marriages.”
Thotha said that as a result of his work commitments, he was often sent away from home on military assignments.
As an employee benefit, the wife of a soldier who is sent away from home on duty is entitled to an allowance.
“I have applied for the allowance for each of my wives, but I was advised by my employer that I have to furnish proof in the form of a marriage certificate for each of my three customary marriages before my wives would be entitled to such an allowance.”
Thotha gave the court a detailed explanation regarding the customs in terms of which his marriages were entered into and how it came about that he paid lobolo in each case. He assured the court that all the rituals were strictly adhered to.
Thotha said he married his first wife, Phelisa Mgqweto, in December 2003. “There is no specific date on which the marriage was concluded as it is regarded as having started from the moment our families reached an agreement and ended when the marriage was celebrated.”
He married his second wife, Lebogang Mlotshwa, in December 2008 in the same manner.
His third marriage – to Tebello Colomo – was entered into in July 2011.
They all agreed to marry in community of property as he and his wives lived in the same house.
“My wives are all housewives and contribute to the joint estate by doing various tasks in the house as well as raising our children.
“It will be in all the parties’ best interests if the joint estate is divided in four equal parts upon dissolution of all or one of the marriages.”
Thotha said that without the registration of his three customary marriages at Home Affairs, his wives were being prejudiced as they could not receive any of the spousal benefits that recognised wives would be entitled to.