The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998


The recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 (“RCMA”) came into effect on the 15th November 2000. A Customary Marriage means it is a marriage that is concluded in accordance with customary law. This Act recognises marriages prior to and after the coming into effect of the RCMA. Customary Marriages that took place prior to this law will have legal recognition and protection if it complies with customary law and if it was still in existence after the implementation of the RCMA.

For a Customary Marriage entered into after the commencement of this act to be valid:

  • The Prospective Spouses must both be above the age of 18 years; and
  • Must both consent to be married to each other under customary law; and
  • The marriage must be negotiated and entered into or celebrated in accordance with customary law.
  • If either of the prospective Spouses is a minor, both his and her parents, or if he or she has no parents, his or her legal guardians, must consent to the marriage.       
  • If a Minor Child has entered into a Customary Marriage without the written permission of the Minister or the relevant Officer. The Minister or the Officer may declare a marriage to be a valid Customary Marriage, if he or she considers the marriage to be desirable and in the interest of the parties in question, and if the marriage is in every other respect in accordance with this act.
  • The prohibition of a Customary Marriage between persons on account of their relationship by blood or affinity is determined by customary law.

Registration Of A Customary Marriage

A Customary Marriage must be registered within three months of the marriage. If the registration does not take place it will not automatically be rendered a marriage null and void, it will still be a valid marriage. However, certain problems may arise if the marriage is not registered.

A Customary Marriage can be registered at the Department of Home Affairs or with a designated traditional leader.

Registration takes place as follows:

The two Spouses, a witness from the Bride’s family, a witness from the Groom’s family and or a representative from each of the families must attend to the Home Affairs Office or the Traditional Leader to register the Customary Marriage. Parties to a Civil Marriage may not enter into a Customary Marriage with another person as such a marriage will be void. When Spouses who are married in terms of Customary Law convert their marriage into a Civil Marriage they will automatically be married in community of property unless they sign an Antenuptial Contract to regulate their marriage regime post the civil marriage.



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