Constitutional Court Rules in Favour of First Wife in Polygamy Case

By Ntokozo Sindane    31-May-2013 04:36 UTC+02:00 6
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the first wife must approve the second marriage in order for it to be considered a valid union. – image -

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the first wife must approve the second marriage in order for it to be considered a valid union. – image –

Though polygamous marriages have always been a part of African culture, the spotlight focused even more on these marriages after Jacob Zuma became the president of the country. South Africa is a diverse country and polygamy is actually a norm in many cultural groups and some religions.

One cannot deny that legal complications usually arise from unions that are based on traditional and religious foundations, especially when the breadwinner dies. For one, there isn’t a lot of paperwork involved in traditional and religious unions. These are often relationships built on good faith between two or more families.

This was highlighted in the case of the widows of Hlengani Dyson Moyana. Moyana married his first wife Modjadji Florah Mayelane in 1984 but the couple did not register their marriage. Despite the marriage not being registered, a Pretoria court confirmed its validity. Moyana later took Mphephu Maria Ngwenyama as his second wife. Ngwenyama then went to the Supreme Court of Appeal to seek validation for her marriage to the deceased man. The Supreme Court of Appeal concluded that both marriages were valid.

However, on Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled that only the first marriage was valid. According to media reports, the court said that the first wife must be aware of the second marriage and must give her consent for it to be recognised by the law. Modjadji Florah Mayelane was never given the opportunity to give her consent to the second marriage because she did not even know about it until after the event.

The parties concerned in this polygamy saga are Xitsonga. Xitsonga customary laws dictate that the first wife must be consulted when her husband wishes to marry another woman. This is in line with the principles of the constitution which prioritise human dignity and equality. This decision means that Moyana’s second wife and her children have no claim to his estate.


  1. lorraine says:

    I’m happy about constitution because our husband don’t respect us if he fell like cheating he will do that because of this wrong polgamy my understanding must communicate with first wife, not under carpet.if a man married another wife without first wife agreement the law must take action against him because that is totaly abuse u killed poor woman,this tsonga culture must stop and u second wife stop destroying other poeple marriage god is watching u stop now is enough

  2. anonymous says:

    Lorraine for you to bring God into this mean you are selective when it comes to reading your Bible, with that being said no where in the Bible does it condemn polygamy only the public who refuse to accept this cultural practice condemn it….I am involved with a man whose father had four wives now to me its his culture and if I don’t like I should move along, as far as I know this does not only happen in the Tsonga Culture, we are also seeing it in all African cultures ie: swazi’s venda’s Zulu’s Xhosa name any African culture and they will tell you this culture is still practiced in a lot of places. so next time have proper information before you comment in things you have no clue about. Thou Shall not Judge its an individual and family decision.

  3. mag says:

    I hate polygamy.we a living in the society with sexual deceases and this can put parties involved in danger

  4. Iftikhar Ahmed says:

    Being a Muslim I prefer to practice polygamy rather than to commit adultery! As longer some one can justify amongst wives he can marry more than one!

  5. I says:

    I am married 27 years is 52 got admited in hospital come out my husband had a personality charge no I see on fb he is engaged with a nother women while we are still married is this legal I have no jpb and is disabled how can I protect myself and is this legal

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