“Marriage Certificates Issued After September 2022 Are Invalid”


Couples who received marriage certificates after the repeal of the Marriage Act 5:11 should visit the Civil Registry Department to correct any “defective” legal citations and ensure alignment with the new laws for validity.


This concern arises from marriage officers and legal practitioners who believe that marriage certificates issued after the repeal of the Marriage Act 5:11 may be invalid because they reference the old law rather than the new Act (Chapter 5:17).


On May 27, 2022, President Emmerson Mnangagwa passed into law a new marriage law, the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:17) which brought radical changes to the marriage laws in Zimbabwe, with the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) and Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07) being repealed.



The coming into effect of the new Marriage Act was announced in a statutory instrument of a Government Gazette published in September 2022.


In a statement, the Law Society of Zimbabwe executive secretary Edward Mapara urged couples to check their marriage certificates after a worrying discrepancy was identified whereby certificates have been issued referenced to an invalid Act.

While the law itself has been updated, the physical marriage certificates have not, meaning that couples are unknowingly holding onto documents that incorrectly cite “Chapter 5:11” of the Act. Said Mapara:


It has come to our attention that marriage certificates currently being issued by the Registrar-General’s Office contain an error. The certificates incorrectly cite Chapter 5:11 of the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:17].


We advise that lawyers and individuals rectify this error by taking the incorrect certificates to (one) Mr Mpala at the Registrar-General’s Office for amendment.


Furthermore, members instructed in divorce proceedings should ensure the marriage certificates are corrected, as a divorce cannot be founded on a defective certificate.


Speaking to NewsDay, legal expert Aaron Hamauswa said without correcting the information on the marriage certificate, the marriage is null and void according to the country’s laws. Said Hamauswa:


The High Court has the power to declare a marriage void where the grounds for doing so exist.


Where there is a declaration of nullity, it is as if the parties never entered into a marriage at all.


The grounds on which a marriage can be declared void are classified into two; non-compliance with the formal requirements and non-compliance with the material requirements like in this case.

Responding to written questions from Chronicle, Civil Registry spokesperson Tsungai Muguti said while the department was awaiting a statutory instrument from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, couples concerned should approach their offices for assistance. She said:


Those who got married after the Act was repealed can still come to the office and have that changed.


As a department, we cannot change the certificates or forms as yet until the gazetting of the S.I. by the Ministry of Justice so that we can print the certificates with the new Act.


Our marriage officers from around the country are aware of this and we urge those affected to proceed to our offices and see Mr Mpala who is the deputy registrar general.


Unfortunately, our provincial officers do not have marriage offices so it makes sense that those affected see Mr Mpala who is based in Harare.


Commenting on the issue, family lawyer Shepherd Chingarande said those who got married after the new Act was passed in 2022 should check if their certificates have the correct Act and stamp. He said:


Marriage certificates are written 5:11, a law that was repealed by the new Marriage Act in 2022. Marriage certificates should read Chapter 5:17 but sadly we continue seeing certificates that quote the old act.

Their certificates arise from an act that no longer exists and at law, there is a possibility that all marriages entered into after the repelling of 5:11 might be non-existent.


So, as legal practitioners, we are saying these people are not married as there should be an Act passed to validate those weddings.


For example, if a client with such a certificate wants to divorce, I need to go to court and get the certificate corrected first as that marriage is null and void. There has to be a bridging Act to regularise those marriages.