Families gather up, in most cases over a glorious white wedding. On such an event, parties invite a marriage officer who under most circumstances is a religious leader who presides over the signing of the marriage certificate, signs it and hands the certificate over to the newly-weds and for most parties that is the end of the procedure for obtaining a registered marriage. Unfortunately, this procedure lacks the final step in achieving registration of a valid marriage in Zimbabwe. The promulgation of the new Marriages Act Chapter [5:15] (the Act) has caused the asking of so many questions from the general public within the society. The Act however is not yet in force until it has been pronounced to be in force by the President of Zimbabwe. This write up seeks to unpack the procedure for registration of marriages in Zimbabwe.
Who can be a marriage officer in Zimbabwe?
Magistrates – marriage officers for the district in which they hold office.
Chiefs – marriage officers for the district in which they hold office.
Minister of Religion– duly registered as marriage officers.
Heads of Embassies – Heads of Zimbabwean Embassies in foreign states, shall be marriage officers by virtue of their office. Can only exercise such duties whilst on duty at that particular embassy.
Types of marriages and their registration
- Registered Customary marriage
Potentially polygamous (one man can marry more than one wife). Solemnized by a duly registered marriage officer who is a magistrate or religious leader or a chief within their jurisdictions. Requires payment of lobola and be upgraded to civil marriage provided there has been only one wife.
- Civil marriage
Potentially monogamous and solemnized by a duly registered marriage officer who is a magistrate or a religious leader. No requirement for payment of lobola.
Upon solemnization of a civil marriage, parties sign the certificate, together with the marriage officer and two witnesses above the age of 18. The marriage officer then enters the marriage in his/her marriage register book. Following which section 36 of the Act places an obligation on the marriage officer (before three months lapses from the date the certificate was signed) to deliver to the Registrar of Marriages office a duplicate copy of the marriage certificate to register the marriage. Parties to the marriage are then given their personal copy of the marriage certificate.
It is important to also note that the failure to register the marriage within the specified period does not affect the validity of the marriage regarding status, guardianship, custody and rights of succession of such children.
The Registrar of Marriages then enters the marriage of the parties concerned in the Marriage Registration Book. This particular stage ensures that the marriage is recorded into the system of the government as a valid registered marriage in Zimbabwe. However, so many parties are not aware of the stage of registering the marriage certificate with the Registrar of marriages, to the extent that after signing a marriage certificate, parties are handed their marriage certificate under the impression that it is now a done and dusted deal. In some circumstances, the marriage officer sits on the certificate and does not proceed to register it with the Registrar of Marriages Office. Such anomalies are costly upon the parties to a marriage, who usually realize it upon instituting a search at the Registrar of Marriages office or when using the marriage certificate for official procedures.
Whenever a marriage officer fails to comply with the obligation in solemnizing and ensuring registration of a valid marriage in Zimbabwe he/she shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of around RTGS 25 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both. Every person intending to enter into a registered marriage in Zimbabwe is encouraged to undertake due diligence and ensure that their certificate is endorsed and recorded by the Registrar.
Registration of a marriage offers various benefits. It assist you in the event that you need to confirm registration of your marriage or are no longer in possession a copy of the marriage certificate or need to correct any error on your marriage certificate. One can always approach the Registrar of Marriages' office and access the copy of their marriage certificate in the custody of the Registrar. A properly entered marriage certificate in the said Marriage Registration Book is conclusive evidence that the marriage of the parties thereto is registered under the law of Zimbabwe.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.