Validating marriage

Bertelsmann J in Thembisile and Another v Thembisile and Another 2002 (2) SA 209 (T) at para 28 acknowledged the importance of this question when he held: It appears to be well established, however, that “in customary law the central issue in divorce proceedings is refund of bridewealth, an obligation taken so literally that the husband could demand return of the same cattle he had originally given.

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Some hold a view that ilobolo is a token of appreciation that the groom’s family extend to the bride’s family for rearing the bride and that it is only once ilobolo or part of it has been tendered and received that the bride is welcomed by the ancestors of the groom into the family.It is the ingredient that differentiates a customary marriage from mere cohabitation, popularly known as vat en sit.JC Bekker correctly argues that ‘[l]obolo is therefore the rock on which the customary marriage is founded; there is considerable justification for the view that a lobolo contract has a greater binding force than a marriage at common law’ (JC Bekker Seymour’s Customary Law in Southern Africa 5ed (Cape Town: Juta 1989) at 151).So important is ilobolo that some have argued it provides stability to the customary marriage.In the words of Dlamini (op cit 390) the prospect of forfeiture of ilobolo was thought to deter a man from divorcing his wife frivolously, and on the other hand, the possible return of ilobolo by the wife’s father should she misbehave motivated her to behave with due decorum and not to wreck the marriage by her misconduct.