Government moves to give property rights to women in polygamous marriages

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Government has moved a step  closer towards legalising equal proprietary rights between men and women engaged in monogamous and polygamous customary marriages.

This is according to Jackson Mthembu, the minister in the presidency, who told a post-cabinet meeting press conference in Cape Town on Thursday that justice minister Ronald Lamola would soon be tabling a proposed piece of law in parliament aimed at ending gender-based discrimination in polygamous marriages entered into before 1998.

Mthembu said the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill of 2019 was now ready to be submitted to parliament for processing and approval before it can be signed into law.

"The bill provides for the equal treatment of women in pre-Act monogamous and polygamous customary marriages. The amendments eliminate the gender-based discrimination in polygamous marriages entered into before the commencement of the RCMA (Recognition of Customary Marriages Act) of 1998. Spouses will now have joint and equal proprietary rights over marital property," said Mthembu.

The amendments to the RCMA stem from a Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruling  two years ago. In a unanimous judgment in 2017, the Concourt declared that section 7(1) of the RCMA, 1998, was invalid. 

This was because it unfairly discriminated  against women by treating polygamous customary marriages before the act came into force differently to monogamous marriages and polygamous marriages that took place after the Act was passed.

On the economy, Mthembu said PepsiCo's R25bn offer to buy local food producer Pioneer Foods was a "clear vote of confidence in the South African economy", although the condition of the acquisition on offer had not been clarified.

He also lauded carmaker Ford's expansion plans at its Pretoria plant in Silverton, saying its R3bn investment at the plant will create 1,200 jobs.

Mthembu said the investment will see Ford increasing its capacity to build Ranger and Everest models, with production of these rising to 168,000 per year.

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