Johannesburg - Failure to follow customs to the letter when marrying his partner has cost a Soweto man the right to bury her.
Leonard Khosa was interdicted by the high court in Joburg on Wednesday from laying to rest the body of Ayanda Zulu, for whom he paid lobolo in 2014.
Judge Lebogang Modiba ruled that Zulu should be buried by her mother, Lindi Zulu, in KwaZulu-Natal.
Judge Modiba delivered her judgment following a marathon hearing lodged on an urgent basis. Brought by the 78-year-old Lindi as an applicant, it dragged on since Monday.
“The funeral will be conducted in Osizweni, Newcastle, by the applicant,” the judge said. “Respondents are directed to hand over the body of the deceased within one hour.”
Judge Modiba said police should confiscate the body if Khosa refused to release it. She said she had been informed that the body was already decomposing in the morgue.
Ayanda, a Joburg metro police inspector, was gunned down outside the home she shared with Khosa in Palm Springs three weeks ago.
Burial arrangements came to a screeching halt two weeks ago as a feud broke out between the two families.
Ayanda's mother lodged the urgent action against Khosa, arguing that he couldn't bury her child because she was not yet his wife by customary law.
The family maintain that though Khosa paid R25 000 as lobolo in 2014, he had not performed the penultimate stage of the lobolo process.
Judge Modiba heard that this was a “handover” ceremony. Ayanda’s family said that in Zulu custom, this layer of the lobolo process sealed the transfer of a bride to her new family.
“In this matter there was no handover whatsoever,” advocate Siphiwe Mpetwane argued for the mother.
“There was no conclusion of the customary marriage. The Zulu family never waived their right (to a handover).
“If there's no handover, the case law (based on a previous court ruling) tells us there's no conclusion of the customary marriage. There wasn't any valid marriage,” Mpetwane said.
Lindi told the court on Monday: “The crucial part of our culture did not take place. We were supposed to slaughter a cow, and they were supposed to do the same (to cement the marriage).”
Advocate Henny Mnisi, arguing for Khosa, told the court on Wednesday that his client believed the customary-marriage process was concluded when the Zulus allowed him and his uncles to leave with Ayanda following a celebration held at her home.
Mnisi said that according to Khosa's culture, Tsonga, there was no additional step after the payment of lobolo was completed and celebrations were held.
He said Khosa was astonished when told while preparing for burial that Ayanda was actually never his wife, but just a cohabiting girlfriend.
“These (Zulu) customs were never communicated to my client,” Mnisi said.
Khosa broke down in tears on Tuesday, telling the court he was never informed of the alleged outstanding ritual.
Mnisi further argued that, noting that this was an intercultural marriage, “one can't expect every person from every culture to be vested with Zulu culture”.
“It is our submission that indeed there was a valid customary marriage which was held in KwaZulu-Natal,” Mnisi said.
Judge Modiba ruled against slapping Khosa with punitive costs. “I’m not of the view that the respondent was malicious or vexatious. The dispute was a genuine one.”
The Zulu family said they would welcome the Khosas with warm hands to the funeral. “We'll even organise a place for them to sleep,” said Hector Zulu, Ayanda's brother.