Jilted lover Noncebo Nhlapo claimed more than R2million in damages from Zimu.
While allowing certain expenses Nhlapo proved she incurred in preparation for their long and happy life together and some damages for her injured feelings relating to the manner in which he had dumped her, the court refused the bulk of her claim.
Judge Leicester Adams, sitting in the high court in Pretoria, found certain of the principles on which these claims were determined in the past were now outdated.
He said the laws relating to a breach of promise to marry were based on a pre-constitutional het- erosexual definition of marriage, which traditionally placed women on an unequal footing to men.
He turned down Nhlapo's R2m claim for the “prospective losses” she might have suffered. The judge said that to hold a party liable for contractual damages for breach of promise to marry could lead to parties entering into marriages they did not, in good conscience, want to enter into, purely due to the fear of being slapped with a claim.
“This is an untenable situation breach of promise to marry no longer forms part of our law.”
The judge also found that the fact that the feelings of the “innocent” party were hurt or that she or he felt jilted was not enough to warrant compensation. He, however, did award Nhlapo R25000 in damages for her “hurt feelings” relating to the manner in which she was dumped. She also received R98149, half of the expenses the former couple incurred for receiving in vitro fertilisation treatment.
Nhlapo told the court that Zimu proposed to her in September 2012 and they got engaged, although there was no ceremony. She was in her 30s and he was 48.
Because they wanted children, they went to a fertility clinic for treatment.
She moved from Pretoria to eMalahleni to live with him. Three years later, he became involved with another woman and dumped her. Zimu at first removed her from his medical aid and replaced her with his new girlfriend. He eventually took her back to her mother’s home.
Zimu, who chose not to testify, in his written plea said he never promised to marry Nhlapo. He said “any engagement agreement existed only in her mind”.
But Nhlapo’s mother testified he had asked her for her daughter’s hand in marriage. The judge found there was indeed a promise to marry. “It is not a legal requirement that there should have been a formal ceremony or a ritual to bring into existence an engagement.”
The exchange or not of rings also did not matter; as long as there was a promise to marry, there was an engagement agreement.
Nhlapo also claimed damages for money she had spend on improving her “new home” for their life together. This included R6000 for the new marital bed she had bought. The judge rejected this claim as he found Zimu had equally spent money on things during their time together.
He was sympathetic to Nhlapo for the way in which she was dumped. He said after she was “kicked out” of the house and while hurting, she had to face her family and friends.
“To add insult to injury, he fathered a child with his new girlfriend,” the judge said in awarding Nhlapo R25000 for this.