Widow finds out deceased husband was married to another woman after trying to register customary marriage

A woman has found out her late husband had another wife, now she’s turned to the courts to resolve the dispute. File Picture

A woman has found out her late husband had another wife, now she’s turned to the courts to resolve the dispute. File Picture

Published Oct 25, 2023


The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled that two women who were married to the same man, are recognised as legal widows of the deceased and entitled to have both their marriages registered if they so wished.

The ruling comes after Mpho Molokane approached the court to have Rosy Williams’ marriage to her husband declared invalid.

Molokane and Williams were both married to Alfred Mohlale.

After Mohlale’s burial in 2015, Molokane approached the Department of Home Affairs to have her customary marriage to the deceased registered which was done and a certificate was issued.

Subsequent to that, Williams also went to the department to have her marriage with Mohlale registered and that’s when she learned that Mohlale has a registered marriage with Molokane.

In March 2015, a meeting was called with the two women to establish the facts surrounding their matter.

It was learned that Williams was customarily married to the deceased in 2003 and they had two children.

He then left Williams without divorcing her and went to stay with Molokane. He paid lobola for her in 2012 also had two children with her.

All the details were confirmed by his brother, Michael Mohlale.

After learning that they were both married to the same man, the estate of the deceased was now in dispute.

In court, Williams said the deceased paid R14,000 lobola in two instalments and the cultural and traditional celebrations were also held at her parental home after he settled the balance in May 2004.

She said she did not know about the extra marital affair which the deceased had with Molokane.

Meanwhile, Molokane testified that she has no knowledge that the deceased was married to Williams.

She testified that she met the deceased in 2004 and used to visit him at Akasia, in Greenstone.

In 2008, she permanently stayed with him.

In March 2012, the deceased paid R26,000 lobola.

She knew that the deceased had kids with Williams, but she wasn’t aware that they were married.

She also said nobody informed her that Williams was married to the deceased.

She said she learned about their marriage from the Master’s office after she applied to be appointed as executrix of the deceased’s estate.

After hearing all the submissions, acting Judge Hasani Malungana said Williams’ evidence was coherent and reliable, as opposed to Molokane, whose oral testimony did not align with her affidavit.

However, he said based on the objective evidence, both women were married to the deceased but only one marriage can be registered under community of property.

Acting judge Malungana said regarding how the deceased and Molokane concluded their marriage, there was non-compliance regarding certain requirements which had to be met as stated in the Recognition of Customary Marriage Act.

“The consequence of such non-compliance is that the subsequent marriage would be valid but that it would be one out of community of property. It plainly cannot be a marriage in community of property, as that would imply the existence of two joint estates, which it is clear cannot co-exist,” he said.

He further ordered the Master of the High Court to withdraw the appointment of Molokane as an executrix of the deceased estate.