Multiple marriages, burial rights and the role of lobolo at the dissolution of the marriage


  • R.-M. Jansen University of the Free State, South Africa


This paper highlights three aspects which have an impact on both customary and common law that came to the fore in the Thembisile case. An evaluation of the way in which the court dealt with the different aspects is made. Regarding multiple marriages, where a civil marriage is also involved, it is suggested that the courts should be hesitant to simply declare either the civil or the customary marriage a nullity and should consider the different options available first. Where a funeral is marred by feuds about burial rights, it is suggested that a flexible approach should be followed. Strict adherence to common law principles could lead to unreasonable and inequitable results, especially in traditional communities. Lastly, there seems to be conflict between the official customary law and the living law regarding the return of the lobolo at the dissolution of a customary marriage. Empirical research should be undertaken to determine whether lobolo is in fact still returned.


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