THE Marriages Bill sailed through the National Assembly on Thursday last week after extensive debate by MPs who felt that chiefs should be given powers to solemnise civil marriages saying clause 9 of the Bill was denying chiefs those powers.
Clause 9 of the Bill reads: “Any chief (1) by virtue of his or her office and so long as he or she holds such office, may be designated as a marriage officer in customary law marriages for the district in which he or she holds office by the minister at the request of such chief in accordance with such conditions as the minister may prescribe; (2) the registrar shall keep a register in the prescribed manner of all chiefs designated by the minister as marriage officers in terms of this section.”
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said chiefs that shall be deemed suitable to be marriage officers and solemnise civil marriages shall be those that satisfy set requirements.
She said rural women should be able to access marriage officers within their communities and by not making chiefs marriage officers, it means that rural people will be confined to customary marriages conducted by chiefs yet they want civil marriages.
Ziyambi’s response was that not every pastor was a marriage officer, adding that one needs to satisfy certain requirements to be a marriage officer in terms of civil marriages.