Church leaders in the North West vowed to advocate for protection of vulnerable women and children as they consolidate their inputs on the Single Marriage Statute Green Paper ahead of the 30 June 2021 closing date for submission of comments.
Chairperson of Mahikeng Ministers Fellowship (MMF), Senior Pastor Moss Tlalang said, “The engagement has assisted church leaders to be acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead including intricacies involved in the current marriage regime and sharpened our perspective as regards the proposed legislation for us to make an informed input.” This follows the provincial consultative engagement that was hosted on Saturday under the auspices of MMF to deal with proposed legislation that among others also proposes legislation of polyandry. Pastor Tlalang highlighted that women who enter into customary marriages should be given the right to declare that they retain the right to opt out of such marriages should their husbands at a later stage decide to enter into polygamous marriages. Church leaders that attended the engagement had registered their objective to polygamy and polyandry. “Women should not find themselves trapped in polygamous marriages that they never envisaged as it complicates their lives because they cannot file for divorce or claim patrimonial benefits. A consent requirement in customary marriage would safeguard the interest of those in marriages arranged by families (Seyantlo) or by the community (Mosadi wa Sechaba),” he stressed. We have also identified the need to deepen understanding of customary marriages vs civil union because most couples enter into both without pre-marital counselling and understanding the ramifications involved. As it stands, the two-tier system is not understood and, in some cases, it is deliberately abused hence most women do not understand why some of their marriages do not progress further, he added. “We are passionately opposed to the use of religion and culture to undermine the rights of women and children guaranteed in the constitution. Our submission therefore will not support marriages of minors under the age of 18. Parental consent in this regard cannot be condoned as it promotes human trafficking, abduction (Ukuthwala) and gender-based violence in homes,” Tlalang pointed out. Church leaders welcomed the extension of marriage officer’s status to traditional leaders and Khoi San leaders. “If the accreditation of persons from non-religious organisations is meant to address objections of certain religious and traditional leaders to solemnize certain marriages, we would have no problem supporting it though we would prefer that members of the LGBTI+ communities should not be discriminated against or ostracized. The church must be the home for all and the principle of equality and protection of the vulnerable upheld,” he emphasised. Members of the five-fold ministries welcomed the assurance from the Acting North West Regional Manager, Charles Mooke that the state has no intention to unilaterally change marriage legislation without taking into account the views of churches that are historically custodians of marriage. “Churches should be more involved in educating our communities. We are relying on your partnership and advice to deal with challenges facing our society,” challenged Mooke who delivered the keynote speech on behalf of the Deputy Minister Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffrey. As part of strengthening partnership with churches and civil society organisations, he committed that the department of Justice and Constitutional Development will conduct joint empowerment and services awareness programmes workshops in partnership with MMF. The Deputy Chairperson of the Culture, Religion and Linguistics (CRL) Commission, Dr Sylvia Phetoe and the Chairperson of the Moral Regeneration Movement, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa also participated in the panel discussion and appealed for tolerance of divergent cultural and religious views.