BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
TRADITIONAL leaders have demanded that the Justice minister must not be given power to appoint them as marriages officers in the Marriages Bill as that would undermine their authority.
Clause 9 of the Marriages Bill, which is currently before Senate, proposes that the Justice minister “may” choose to designate a chief to become a marriage officer.
However, last Thursday in Senate, chiefs raised objections against the clause, saying it must be removed as they automatically qualified to be marriage officers and did not need to be appointed by the Justice minister.
Senator Chief Ngungumbane, born Zama Mkwananzi of Mberengwa, described the clause as discriminatory.
“The first one is, when I become a chief, I have to apply to you as the minister administering this Act. The word ‘may’ means that you can use your discretion to approve or disapprove that application of a chief. To me, that creates discrimination among the institution of chiefs,” Chief Ngungumbane said.
“I think by virtue of me being a chief, I automatically become a marriage officer. It should be automatic,” he said.
President of the Chiefs’ Council Chief Fortune Charumbira said: “When one is appointed a chief, all chiefs are equal. So, you cannot by operation of this Bill, start grading them and say this one is competent and that one in not.”
But Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi defended the clause, saying it was not discriminatory.
“What we are simply saying is we want chiefs to be made alive to what they would be doing in terms of solemnising the marriages of their people. I plead with chiefs that this is a very progressive clause that we cannot remove because if we remove it, it means that government will now accept marriages that may be void without any control or without any training of the very people that they would have allowed to be marriage officers,” Ziyambi said.