Tag: Civil Marriage



A: The Marriages Act [Chapter 5:17] came into effect on the 16th of September 2022 through the proclamation in SI 164/2022.


A: No. It is a relationship between a man and a woman that are above the age of 18 and have satisfied the requirements laid out in terms of Section 41 of the Marriages Act [Chapter 5:17] .


A: Yes – Spouses that are married in terms of the laws of the country can engage in a civil partnership.


A: No. A party to a civil marriage can engage in a civil partnership and they are not guilty of committing the crime of bigamy, as a civil partnership is not a marriage hence no crime has been committed. Section 41(6) of the Marriages Act [Chapter 5:17];

(6) It is here provided that, by virtue of the partners dissolving their civil partnership, neither of them shall be deemed to be guilty of bigamy contrary to section 104 of the Criminal Law Code if either of them is legally married to someone else.


A:  The only property shared is that which was acquired by the civil parties during the subsistence of the relationship. Matrimonial property owned by one’s spouse shall not be shared by a civil partner. The Court, when making its order with regard to property sharing upon dissolution of the civil partnership, takes into account the rights and interests of the spouse of the civil partner. Section 41(5) of the Marriages Act states that

(5) Where one of the persons in a civil partnership is legally married to someone else (hereinafter called the “spouse of the civil partner”), a court applying sections 7 to 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act [Chapter 5:13] to the division, apportionment or distribution of the assets of the civil partnership shall pay due regard to the rights and interests of the spouse of the civil partner and ensure that its order shall not extend to any assets which are proved, to the satisfaction of the court, to be assets properly belonging to the spouse of the civil partner.


This is for general information only – please contact a Lawyer for your questions.


The New Marriages Act – [Chapter 5:15]

The Marriage Act [Chapter 5:15] (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) seeks to repeal the current Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] and the Customary Marriage Act [Chapter 5:07]. These two statues catered to the different marriage regimes in Zimbabwe. The Act looks to have all marriages in Zimbabwe governed by one statute.

In terms of section 2 of the Act, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe will announce the date from which the Act will become operational:

1 Short Title and Date of Commencement

(2) This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by the President by notice in the Gazette.

To begin with the Act pegs the minimum age of marriage at 18. There are various statues that have been amended as a result of this provision, such as the General Law Amendment Act. The Guardianship of Minors Act prior to its amendment provided for the marriage of a minor with the consent of their parent/s or guardian/s. The Act seeks to prevent the exploitation of child/ren by introducing a jail term and or a fine for adults that facilitate child marriages:

3 Minimum age of marriage

(3) Any person, other than the child concerned, who contravenes subsection (2), shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

[This provision excludes ONLY the child from criminal liability, and imputes the liability on the parent/s or guardian/s of the minor.]

The above cited provision seeks to safeguard the rights of the girl and boy child by advocating for the abolition of child marriage. This change will also curb the extent of sexual exploitation of the children by sexual predators.

Marriages in Zimbabwe are between two parties of the opposite sex (male and female) that are eighteen years of age and above. Despite neighboring jurisdictions observing same sex marriage it is emphasised that in terms of the laws of the country same sex marriages are not recognized nor marriages of parties that have a certain degree of relation. Section 4 of the Act provides that both parties to the marriage must consent to their union for it to be solemnized.

Another change that has been introduced by the Act is the addition of Chiefs as marriage officers when it comes to solemnizing customary law marriages in their districts.

Prior to the Act there were three types of marriages that were recognized under the laws of the Zimbabwe. The marriages are listed below in accordance to their hierarchy;

  • Civil Marriages in terms of the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11]
  • Customary Marriage in terms of the Customary Marriages Act [ Chapter 5:07]
  • Unregistered Customary law union.

The Act now recognizes more marriages in Zimbabwe.


This is a monogamous marriage, which means that only one husband and one wife are involved. In the event that a spouse marries someone else, they have committed the crime of bigamy. An offended party in this sort of marriage (by virtue of their spouse’s infidelity) may opt to sue for adultery damages.


This marriage is between one man and at least one wife; it has the potential to be polygamous depending on the male counterpart. Only the husband in this type of a marriage can marry more than one wife; with the wife in such a marriage not being able to marry another husband. The husband can sue for adultery damages in the event of infidelity. If the husband has only one wife, the wedding can be upgraded to a civil marriage, eliminating the customary law marriage.


This is a union where lobola is paid by the husband to the wife’s family, but the couple do not register the marriage hence the title unregistered customary law union.

The Act now recognizes in addition to the 3 marriages, the Qualified Civil Marriage and the Civil partnership. In terms of the Act the number of marriages that will now be observed in Zimbabwe has increased from the traditional 3. The marriages have certain aspects that make them valid in terms of the law.

Of importance to note is the fact that all the marriages will be equal in terms of the law. What this means in terms of Estate Administration and inheritance is yet to be discovered. The next article will focus on the new marriages that are introduced by the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:15].

This article is for general information purposes only. Please contact a Lawyer for advice.

An eye opener on Inheritance Issues and Property Rights in a Civil Marriage

Chigwada vs Chigwada SC 188-20: An eye opener on Inheritance Issues and Property Rights in a Civil Marriage

Chigwada vs Chigwada SC 188-20: An eye opener on Inheritance Issues and  Property Rights in a Civil Marriage.  

Are you aware that the case of Chigwada  vs Chigwada SC-188-20 has affirmed the position that a spouse can dispose his or her property through a will to anyone whom he or she desires. The previous position that a will can be regarded as invalid and set aside for the reason that the surviving spouse was disinherited is no longer valid.

The Supreme Court which is the highest court of the land(Appellate) made a pronouncement which has a great impact on property rights in a civil marriage, inheritance and estates planning. The new position of the law is that a will cannot be challenged on the basis that the testator(deceased) did not bequeath property to a surviving spouse. Put simply, a husband or wife is not entitled to dispose his or her estate through a will to his or her surviving spouse.

 The background and basis of this position of the law is the Married Person Property Act (Chapter 5:12) which provides that since 1929 all marriages in Zimbabwe are out of community of property. This means that parties (husband or wife) are legally entitled to own or dispose of property in their individual capacities. The doctrine of freedom of testation and the Constitutional right to property ownership enshrined in section 71(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe were also taken into consideration. In simpler terms a wife or husband can purchase property and own it in his /her own name and can also sale or dispose it through a will in his or her own capacity to whoever he / she desires.

Facts of the case

It is greatly important to outline the facts of the case which led to the pronouncement of the judgment by the Supreme Court. The deceased (Aaron Chigwada) in this case was married to the 1st Respondent (Penelope Chigwada) in terms of the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11). Before marrying 1st Respondent the deceased was married to Appellant’s mother and they had divorced. The house in question was acquired by the deceased and his second wife (1ST Respondent) and was registered in both their names hence each spouse owned half share of the beneficial interest in the house.

The deceased  had left a will and in that will he bequeathed his half share to his son from his previous marriage (Appellant ).The surviving spouse (Ist Respondent) dissatisfied with the will approached the High Court to have the will set aside for the reason that Appellant cannot inherit the half share because she is entitled to it as the surviving spouse .The High Court ruled in her favour but the Appellant appealed against the ruling and it was later overturned by the Supreme Court leading to the present positon of the law. When the appeal matter was heard 1st Respondent had misconceptions about property rights in a civil marriage and she was basing her claims on religious teachings from her church about a civil marriage and inheritance. She was of the view that she had a right to the half share of her late husband because she was the surviving spouse and she was entitled to the share regardless of the will. This is the misconception that a lot of people have generally in relation to inheritance and matrimonial property where there is a will. This position is however different where there is no will as the surviving spouse will inherit the house (matrimonial home).

Effects of the new judgement

As earlier on highlighted the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land and its rulings are binding on all persons and institutions in Zimbabwe. It is now a settled position of the law of the land that a spouse can dispose his or her property by will (testamentary disposition) to whomever he or she chooses. A will cannot be set aside or invalidated on the grounds that the estate was not bequeathed to the surviving spouse. The previous rulings that a testator desiring to dispose his estate through a will is bound to bequeath that estate to his or her surviving spouse is inconsistent with the law and should not be followed. The other implication though not dealt with in the Chigwada case is that a spouse married out of community of property can deal with property in his or her individual name in any manner he or she desires even during the subsistence of a marriage without getting consent form the other party. This position is however different in a case of distribution of property upon a divorce where contribution of parties is considered. The position is different in relation to  inheritance and disposal of property through a will  as highlighted above.

Conclusion and Possible Way Forward

The new position has its effects and implications on property rights in marriages, inheritance and estates planning however this is now the settled position of law. It is one of our aims and objectives as a law firm to educate the general public and our valued clients on any changes in law. Marriages in Zimbabwe are out of community of property hence a spouse can acquire, own or dispose property in their individual capacity without the consent or knowledge of the other spouse. A spouse can bequeath property owned in his or her individual capacity through a will to anyone he or she chooses. A spouse is not automatically entitled to inherit a property owned by the deceased when he or she has left a will. A will cannot be set aside on the basis that the deceased (testator) did not bequeath property that he or she owned to his or her surviving spouse.

 What should you do to ensure that you protect that which you have worked for even if it is registered in your spouse’s name.


  1. You need to understand that if there is bad blood between you and your spouse, your spouse can dispose of property to his or her siblings or relatives through a will and you will be surprised to know this at his or her death bed.
  2. Let’s initiate discussions on property ownership at family level and come up with solutions that benefits our families and not third parties.