Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi

We can't legalise Muslim Nikah marriage, says Home Affairs minister

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Jun 2, 2020

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Johannesburg - As the tally of deaths related to Covid-19 rises, the non-recognition of Muslim marriages by South African law has come under the spotlight.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said no interim measures will be put in place to at least legalise marriages of Muslims who die due to the novel coronavirus.

“A marriage entered into in terms of Muslim rites is thus far not recognised in South Africa,” said Motsoaledi, replying to a written Parliamentary question by Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks.

“The department would not have powers to indicate that a person is ­married in the death certificate, whereas such is not the case in terms of the law.”

Hendricks had asked Motsoaledi if, “in light of the coronavirus pandemic in which Muslims are also affected by projected deaths, he will consider the implementation of interim measures to restore the human dignity of the Nikah”.

A Nikah is a formal, supposedly binding marriage contract entered into through Muslim rites. Islam is the second biggest religion in South Africa after Christianity.

Hendricks, the only Al Jama-ah MP, told Motsoaledi the non-recognition to Muslim marriages “causes extreme difficulties to the surviving spouse and children to claim their rights to benefits”.

Hendricks also asked what prevented the government from affording legal recognition to Muslim marriages by the same legislation that recognised African customary marriages.

Motsoaledi said the government had no powers to have Muslim marriages legalised through the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.

“Customary marriages are regulated by the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998, which provides for requirements for a valid customary marriage and registration thereof.

“In this regard, there is no power vested in the government to extend the provision of the act to other types of marriages,” Motsoaledi said.

Speaking to The Star, Hendricks said Covid-19 had multiplied social complications brought by death for people in Muslim marriages.

“It’s an insult to someone married 40 years ago to be told they were never married,” he said. “The death certificate says never married. How is a wife supposed to feel?”

The Star

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