The Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill: Much ado about nothing?

Author Fatima Osman

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, Department of Private Law, University of Cape Town
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 137 Issue 3, p. 389-406


The Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill provides that spouses  in polygamous marriages concluded before the commencement of the Recognition of  Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 have joint rights of ownership, management  and control over marital property. The Bill creates uncertainty by failing to  explain what is meant by joint rights of ownership and control, which uncertainty  is exacerbated by the incorporation of the terms ‘marital’, ‘personal’, ‘house’ and  ‘family’ property without concrete definitions of these terms. The burden will fall to  courts to re-imagine the antiquated definitions of these concepts in the current socioeconomic  context. Moreover, the amendments are not reconciled within the existing  legal framework. Consequently, women in polygamous marriages concluded before the  Act’s commencement may, counter-intuitively, have greater rights than those women  in polygamous marriages concluded after the commencement of the Act. The note thus  argues for substantial revisions before the Bill is passed.