A customary marriage in South Africa is one that is formed, celebrated, and ended in accordance with indigenous African customary law. Traditional law, often known as customary law, is an important part of South African law that regulates the laws surrounding customary weddings.
Even though the customary marriage is entered into and celebrated in accordance to African customs one technical aspect must be added, which is the registration, registration of the marriage serves as the birth certificate of the union of two people.
Section 4(9) of the Act does, however, state that a customary marriage is not invalid if it is not registered, but an unregistered customary marriage makes it difficult to prove that a marriage exists without a marriage certificate.
According to the South African Legal Information Institute, the purpose of custom is to provide for the recognition of customary marriages; stating the conditions of a valid customary marriage; stipulating the customary marriage registration; ensure equality of status and capacity of husband and wife in marriage according to customs and habits; regulations on property consequences of marriage according to custom.
However, one of the most common problems a wife faces in a traditional marriage is that the marriage is not recognized because it is not registered. The wife often relies on her husband to register the marriage because she believes she does not have the authority to register the marriage herself or because she cannot access the home office because she is overdue.
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Without registration, many of these marriages are deemed to be non-existent and therefore do not attract any rights and obligations. According to Mail & Garden , the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, is problematic and gives rise to prejudice and discrimination.
In addition, marriage must be negotiated, entered into or celebrated in accordance with customary law. This means that the marriage must be entered into in line with the traditions and customs of the parties.