Pretoria - A mother-in-law has lost her legal bid to challenge the validity of a marriage certificate which her daughter-in-law had obtained 20 days after the death of her son.
According to the mother, her son was never married to the woman, and as the mother to the potential groom, she never gave consent to the marriage.
She also asked the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg to cancel the marriage certificate because according to her, the marriage negotiations never reached conclusion and the marriage was not celebrated in accordance with customary law.
The court, however, concluded that there was indeed a binding marriage.
This order followed hot on the heels of another similar case in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this month, where a mother also wanted the court to declare that the marriage of her deceased son was not valid as all the rituals involved in a customary marriage ceremony were not concluded.
In that case, the mother-in-law also lost her case.
In the latest application, Jeanette Mgenge challenged the marriage of Rose Mokoena to Siphiwe Mgenge, who died on November 7, 2019. The marriage certificate was issued on November 27, 2019 – 20 days after his death.
Mgenge told the court that her son planned on marrying Mokoena, but according to her, the marriage negotiations never reached conclusion and the marriage was not celebrated in accordance with customary law.
The mother relied on a handwritten and signed document which, according to her, indicated an intention by her son to enter into marriage “if things went well”.
Mokoena said the letter in which the man said he wanted to marry her was a binding lobola agreement. The mother-in-law argued that it was merely an indication that he wanted to start marriage negotiations.
The mother-in-law said that it was after her son’s death and in the course of communicating with the Master’s Office that she discovered the existence of the marriage certificate.
She stated that when she first saw a copy of the certificate, she was surprised as she “is the single mother of the deceased”, and she did not have knowledge of the marriage, nor did she consent to it.
She said that in terms of customary law, she (the applicant), as the mother of the deceased, was required to have participated in any pre-marriage negotiations between the families.
She was adamant that, given the absence of her consent to the union, the certificate incorrectly records that the deceased and Mokoena were married in accordance with customary law.
Mokoena, in turn, said that during 2018, she and the deceased had decided to get married in accordance with customary law. Thereafter, the necessary customary marriage negotiations were successfully finalised at a meeting of the families’ respective representatives, held at her family home in QwaQwa.
A written lobola agreement was signed and witnessed by the respective family representatives.
Mokoena questioned her mother-in-law’s “ignorance” regarding the marriage, as she said the latter was aware of the negotiations.
According to her, a customary wedding was, in fact, celebrated in November 2018.
She said that upon the successful conclusion of an agreement on lobola there was a celebratory meal, a sheep was slaughtered, fat of the sheep was rubbed on the deceased’s head (symbolising the conclusion of the marriage under customary law), and that the deceased made part payment of the agreed lobola amount (with the balance to be paid at a later date).
The mother-in-law, however, persisted with her version that the lobola document merely evidenced an intention to commence initial marriage negotiations. She agreed that her family went to meet the bride-to-be’s family, but she said this was merely an introduction and not a marriage ceremony.
Acting Judge G Rome said the mother-in-law knew that there was a marriage in the pipeline.
The judge further said it was clear that there was a series of events at the meeting of the families which resulted in the conclusion of a customary marriage.
These events included the successful conclusion of a lobola agreement, part payment of lobola, the observance of customary rituals such as the slaughtering of a sheep, the rubbing of fat on the groom and the families partaking in a celebratory meal.
The couple also lived together since then without any objection from the mother-in-law. The judge said there could not be any doubt that the marriage certificate was valid.