Pretoria - A former traffic officer who died more than 10 years ago left “his wives” in a difficult position as he apparently took his secrets to his grave as to whom he was married to at which stage.
The now 79-year-old Maria Mkhari took the other Mrs Mkhari (no first name given in judgment) to the Limpopo Division of the High Court for an order that Home Affairs register and record the civil marriage between her and the deceased, entered into in the late 1970s.
She said that her husband paid R70 lobola for her in the 1960s after their first child was born. According to her, she is the one and only Mrs Mkhari and the house her husband built for her in Polokwane was hers only.
The granny told the court she only discovered the other woman, who claimed to also be Mrs Mkhari, after her husband’s death, when she went to Polokwane to lock up the house and bury her husband.
Mrs Mkhari 2 was in the house and refused Mrs Mkhari 1 entry. She claimed she was the true wife as she had married the deceased a few months before his death.
But it came to light during evidence before the court that there was at some stage over the years also a Mrs Mkhari 3 – whom the deceased had divorced.
However, none of the women knew of each other, or that the deceased was married when he wedded one of them.
The only clue that there were more than one wife was when the parties checked the medical aid of the deceased and noticed he had more than one wife registered as his dependant.
One of his sons also testified that he stayed with his father for some time before his death and he had several girlfriends. The son said he was not sure to which of these women his father was actually married.
The applicant testified that she and the deceased met and fell in love in 1965 when she was employed as a professional nurse at the Ethel Locus Memorial Hospital, now known as Tintswalo Hospital.
She said they started living together in 1968 and in 1969 lobolo of R70 was paid for her. A letter of acknowledgement of lobola was issued and it remained with the family.
The problem was the recipients had all died and it was not known where the lobola letter was today.
However, the applicant said they registered their marriage with Home Affairs in 1978. This union was witnessed by two family members, who have also died.
She said as there were no computers in those days, it was also difficult to get hold of the civil union document.
She explained that she and the deceased did not live long together, as over the years she worked as a nurse in other towns and later as a teacher.
However, she maintained that he was her husband up to his death and the house in Polokwane was bought for her and the children. She said she was shocked when she found the other woman there.
She said that at no stage did she divorce the deceased and she was registered as the deceased’s spouse on his medical aid until the date of his death.
The applicant was also shocked to hear that the deceased was married to another woman at the time when he paid R70 lobola for her.
Judge Maake Kganyago said it was not known when the deceased and his alleged first wife, whom it was said he had divorced, got married.
“The deceased was married to three women without the knowledge of each other. He even divorced one of them without the knowledge of either of them,” the judge said.
According to the Bonitas certificate of membership, the deceased was born on September 20, 1944, the plaintiff on October 25, 1944, and the woman he supposedly married and divorced was born on September 29, 1945.
The judge noted that they were all in the same age bracket and it was not known how old the woman who claimed to be the latest wife was.
The judge said the applicant should have called Home Affairs to try to clear up all these confusions, as the court could not establish who was the rightful wife. He turned down the application on this ground.