The main traditions that we maintain are linked to birth, marriage and death; the circle of life.
In the midst of life we are in death and funerals are a solemn remainder of the fragility of life, and the untimeliness of death, it’s an affair for the living to find closure, to say goodbye, celebrate a life lived and also remember that at the end of the road is death and the ancestors. Religion has somewhat changed a lot of the cultural procedures of this final journey as once you start invoking the spirits of the ancestors its deemed as cavorting with evil spirits.
Childbirth also has its customs but mostly they are reserved for the birth of a daughter’s first child. This is called masungiro.
Masungiro / kusungira is a tradition observed by some families/culture; where just before the birth of the first child, a pregnant woman in her last trimester goes back home to her maternal home, to not only get advice on childbirth and childcare in familiar surroundings but to ensure she has the full blessings and support of the family and thus have a stress-free birth.
My sister had her such ceremony a few years ago and is now mother to a son and I wrote about the occasion: Read About Masungiro
Marriage is the highlight event of every family, that moment when the daughters to introduce a son-in-law (Mukwasha) and sons to bring home a bride (Muroora). Once you pass a certain age, aunties will ambush you with questions on when you are going to make the family proud.
Morooro/maroworo is the Shona Traditional wedding where the prospective son-in-law (Mukwasha) brings his people(i.e uncles and negotiator) to negotiate and pay roora(bride price/dowry)
For a more detailed look; Read About Marooro: A Shona Traditional Wedding.
I accompanied my older brother when he went to pay lobola for his then fiancé and naturally I wrote down how my brother’s traditional wedding went down.
The traditional wedding is regarded as an informal procedure while some may end there others will proceed to request for a church wedding which is treated as a more formal union but the law is clear.
Legally marriage in Zimbabwe is treated differently guided by different laws depending on whether the marriage is in terms of customary or general law. A Marriage Bill is currently in process to harmonise the marriage laws in Zimbabwe.
Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11)
According to the present Marriage Act, there is no need to pay a bride price before consenting parties can register their Civil Marriage. A monogamous couple simply requires to do do the following: obtain a marriage licence which they pay for at their local Magistrates Court, the publishing of bans, witnesses and a wedding date.
Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07)
According to the Customary Marriage Act only customary marriages that are registered are recognized as marriages in Zimbabwe. This means that in addition to payment of a bride price, couples have to register their traditional marriages for such unions to be recognized.
If a couple only has a traditional wedding, without registration with the Marriage Registry, they are legally known as being in an unregistered customary law union which is not a marriage in Zimbabwe and only recognised as one in the event of disputes involving status, guardianship, custody and inheritance.
Legal Requirements To Register A Customary Marriage :
- The marriage has to be registered in the district where the woman resides;
- The guardian or deputy appointed by the guardian should be present to consent to the marriage;
- The guardian should have agreed to the form and amount of bride price;
- The bride price must have been paid
- The husband must pay the fee to register the marriage;
- appeal procedure to register a customary marriage in the event that the guardian has refused to consent to the marriage and this process involves appealing to a Magistrate who will make an inquiry in consultation with the guardian before reaching a decision.
In light of how the present Customary Marriage Act instituted 1963 has requirements which consider a woman as needing a guardian’s consent to register her marriage and the tendency of guardians commodifying their consent, refusing to give it until payment of the bride price, long overdue amendments are in the works.
The new Marriage Bill will no longer require a customary marriage officer to satisfy himself or herself that there has been an agreement on the transfer of marriage consideration (i.e. payment of bride price) If the parties do agree on the transfer of such consideration the Registrar (of Marriage) is under obligation to record it when registering the marriage to minimise disputes about the terms of such agreements.
The Bill has had a media storm with some people interpreting it as that the practise of lobola has been abolished, while others complain that it should be abolished as it commodifies women. Religious groups have felt it encouraged extra-marital or unrecognised unions.
Currently Civil Union marriage is strictly monogamous and if one wants a polygamous union they would have to register under the Customary Marriage Act