Several churches and marriage officers face a ban from solemnising marriages if they continue to disregard laid-down procedures, Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede has said.
The RG said some marriage officers were making outrageous demands from marrying couples including $500, suits, accommodation and allowances.
Mr Mudede made the remarks during a meeting with church representatives and marriage officers in Harare yesterday.
He said churches had no jurisdiction to “upgrade” marriages from Chapter 5:07 to Chapter 5:11. Some churches have become very exploitative when it comes to the solemnisation of marriages,” said Mr Mudede.
“Some marriage officers are demanding $500 from poor couples among other items such as suits, fuel, accommodation, allowances, food and other tokens of appreciation. Please do not pressurise people to have them wed. Do not demand money from marrying couples. If anyone demands that, please report them to us.”
Mr Mudede said some clergymen were pressuring couples to “upgrade” their marriages from Chapter 5:07 to Chapter 5:11 so that they could be paid.
In the process, he said the marriage officers were misleading couples leaving them stranded when such marriage processes failed the legal test.
“We heard that some Reverends are encouraging people to do away with Chapter 5:05 for Chapter 5:11 and they do that for money. If you say you want to upgrade it in other words you are saying African marriages are inferior to Christian marriages. You are also demeaning Parliament that passed the law. Anyway what is important to note is that a paper does not make a marriage successful. What is important is love.
“Please do not torture people’s minds by forcing them to do things so that you can be paid. Leave people to decide what they want. Stop making couples pay money so that you can solemnise their marriages. Yes, you may get a token of appreciation but please do not demand money, suits, allowances and fuel,” said Mr Mudede.
Some clergymen said the majority of women wanted to upgrade to Chapter 5:11 to safeguard their property.
Harare provincial magistrate Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe, who also attended the meeting, said while there was general belief that marriage solemnised under Chapter 5:11 was desirable, it had inherent problems. He said in the event of a divorce people who were married under the Chapter 5:07 and Chapter 5:11 were both treated under the Matrimonial Causes Act.
Head of marriages in the Registrar-General’s Office Mr Gorden Tsuro said some marriage officers were reckless in administering marriages.
He implored heads of denominations to supervise their marriage officers to ensure their remained in line.
Mr Tsuro said some marriage officers were constantly cancelling marriage registers after making mistakes. He said any marriage officer who cancelled the marriage register more than two times would be banned from solemnising marriages.
“Marriage registers must be kept under lock and key. All used up marriage registers must be kept at the head office because if you lose the register it affects all the marriages under that register where people would have to wed again.
“We are worried with the degree of recklessness. Some marriage officers are guilty of not informing marrying parties of the requirements for instance if one is a divorcee they must produce a divorce order. If one is a widow or widower they must also produce a death certificate.
“You are also not allowed to carry our marriage stationery to marry people outside the country. Some marriage officers are continuing to marry people without requisite documents,” Mr Tsuro said.