A woman who claimed to be the wife of a man who died four years ago turned to the court to obtain an order that she is his lawful widow, together with his second wife, and that she is thus entitled to inherit half of his estate.
The applicant, only identified as MZ, turned to the Durban High Court for an order declaring that she and the deceased had entered into valid customary marriage. She said the marriage subsisted until the man’s death.
The second wife opposed the application and said that she and the man were married under civil law and that she was thus the only lawful widow. She is, however, embroiled in separate legal proceedings in a bid to claim maintenance from his estate.
The applicant meanwhile told the court that the man was married to another woman - the first wife - by way of civil rights in 1988. During 2010, the man and the applicant started dating each other, while the man was still married to that wife.
The applicant alleged that at the time he also proposed marriage to her. She said that emissaries were sent to her family at Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, with the purpose of negotiating lobola on behalf of the man.
It is further alleged that 11 cows were proposed for lobola. However, she said, cash in the sum of R65 500 was paid into the banking account of her mother.
The court was told that the lobola negotiations and agreement ensued around February 2012 and where after an upfront payment of R10 000 (as inkomo yokucela) was paid by the emissaries.
As part of the negotiations, they gave her family two fruit-blenders and iscephu (a grass mat). It was further submitted by the applicant that a goat was slaughtered. One half of the goat was given to the emissaries, whereas one half remained with her family.
The applicant said two years later the man bought her an 18-carat white gold diamond cluster ring at the cost of R36 860. This was a year after his first wife had died.
But the man meanwhile had met another woman (second wife) whom he married in September 2016 in terms of a civil marriage.
The applicant said although the second wife was now in the picture, she and the man lived together in a rental property on the north coast of KZN.
The second wife as well as family of the deceased vehemently denied that the man and the applicant were married in terms of customary law. Their arguments included that there were no members of the man’s family who attended any of the customary rituals to which the applicant referred.
The court said the submissions by the applicant that lobola negotiations ensued between her family and that of the deceased were doubtful as the law prescribes that the marriage must be negotiated and entered into or celebrated in accordance with customary law.
There is also no corroboration or version of the applicant's mother to confirm that the money paid into her bank account by the deceased, was in fact for lobola, the court said in turning down the application.