The Marriages Bill was yesterday finally passed by the National Assembly following amendments made to the proposed law by Senate last month.
After the approval of the amendments by Senate last month, the Bill had to be returned to the National Assembly for it to consider the changes before it was sent to President Mnangagwa for his assent.
The Bill was initially passed in the National Assembly in 2020 but was held up in Senate after traditional leaders objected to a clause that said that payment or non-payment of a bride price could not be regarded as a barrier in solemnising marriage between two consenting adults if they satisfied other requirements of the law.
But traditional leaders, led by Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira, argued that payment of bride price was a hallmark of marriage in customary unions.
There had been differences between the Government and traditional leaders on a clause related to lobola payment in customary unions and the powers of chiefs as marriage officers.
The new amendments allow marriage officers, who include traditional leaders solemnising customary unions in their own areas to ask parties to a marriage whether or not lobola has been paid.
The amendments also provide that a marriage officer in a customary union cannot solemnise unions where couples had stayed together for less than five years.
Under unregistered customary law unions, the amendments make it clear that a marriage officer to a proposed customary union can include questions about lobola among those required for establishing the identity and ages of the couple.
In these solemnisations of unregistered customary unions, the couples have to present an affidavit jointly sworn to by them to the effect that they have been living together as husband and wife for at least five years or more, and that they are not related to each other within any prohibited degree of kinship that is recognised by their community as an impediment to marriage between them.
There also have to be affidavits by two witnesses (of whom one witness must be a relative of the bridegroom and the other a relative of the bride) corroborating the fact that the proposed marriage partners have been living together as man and wife for five years or more and that they are not related to each other within the prescribed degree of kinship.
The period of five years referred to in this section shall not include any period during which either of the parties was below the age of eighteen years at the time that they purportedly began to live together as man and wife.