There has been a lot of heated debate and discussions on social media as well as traditional media platforms over the highly contentious issue of lobola refunds. This was after iHarare had reported on an under-reported judgement from 2015, in which the High Court ruled that a husband is entitled to a full lobola refund if the wife breaks the marriage relationship by cheating.Â Â
Ever since the issue of lobola refunds went viral, our inboxes have been inundated with messages from people aros the board. It seems that most people wanted to know if anyone had actually received a lobola refund. Some were of the opinion that the rulings by the courts are only theoretical and do not really work in the real world. Others went as far as declaring that no one will ever be given a lobola refund even if he has evidence that his wife cheated on him by engaging in an adulterous affair.Â Â
In response to these inquiries, we wanted to let the readers know of the case of Orient Jani, a Zimbabwe man who not only won his lobola refund case at the courts but managed to get all his money back following a series of legal battles with his in-laws.
In March 2013, Jani who was based in South Africa paid lobola, the customary bride price, for his sweetheart Nataly Mucheche. After paying a lobola of US$2 580 (approximately ZAR37 000 at current rates), he started preparing for the wedding. According to what the two families had agreed on, Nataly would only move in with Jani after the white wedding.
However, before the wedding could take place, Jani discovered that his customary law wife had not been faithful and had been cheating on him with Obert Karombo. Even worse, Nataly was pregnant with Karomboâs child.Â Â
A devastated Jani ended his customary law marriage to Nataly and approached the Mucheche family for a refund of his lobola. To his shock, his father-in-law refused to hand back the lobola and cheekily suggested that Jani should be compensated by his wifeâs adulterous lover, Karombo.Â Â
After trying to reason with the Mucheche family and failing to make any headway, Jani resorted to litigation and sued his father in law at the Magistrateâs Court.Â Â
In his lawsuit, Jani demanded reimbursement of the US$3 409 he had paid in lobola and in transport costs moving between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Mucheche on the other hand was against the refund and maintained that Jani should approach Karombo for any compensation.
In September 2014, After going through the arguments, presiding magistrate Ms Marehwanazvo Gofa threw out the father-in-lawâs spurious argument. She ruled that Mucheche should refund Jani his lobola and said that under the law, a son-in-law can demand a lobola refund when the wife has cheated.Â Â
As part of her ruling, Ms Gofa is quoted as saying,Â
âEvidence is very clear that the plaintiff (jani) was to be handed his wife on the wedding day. Even though the defendant (mucheche) tried by all means to dispute the assertion and the two never stayed together as husband and wife.
âThe law has shown that a son-in-law can claim back the lobola he paid from his in-law where the alleged wife is (found to be) wrong. Accordingly, plaintiffâs claim is allowed in the sum of $2 580 plus costs,â
Despite the magistrateâs ruling, Mucheche did not refund Jani and seems to have engaged in gamesmanship to frustrate his former son-in-law who he well knew was based in South Africa. Mucheche cheekily gave Jani US$200 from the US$2 580 he had been ordered to refund.Â
In 2015, after noting that his former father-in-law was not forthcoming in making the full lobola refund, Jani obtained a warrant of execution for the debt and ordered the Messenger of Court to attach and sell some of his father-in-lawâs property. However, when the Messenger of Court tried to execute the warrant at Muchecheâs farm, he found nothing of value to attach.
Jani remained tenacious and did not give up on his quest for justice. In December 2016, he filed an application for the civil imprisonment of his father-in-law for failing to refund him of his US$2 520 lobola.Â Â
Mucheche is reported to have tried to have the matter postponed hoping that Jani would go back to South Africa and leave the matter hanging. The magistrate would have none of it, however. She ruled that Mucheche would be imprisoned for 90 days unless he made a payment for the lobola refund and legal costs.Â Â
Faced with the prospect of going to prison for 3 months, Mucheche finally capitulated. After more than 2 years since he had been ordered to give Jani his lobola refund, Mucheche deposited US$3 679,25 (R53 000) into the Messenger of Courtâs account for onward transmission to Jani. The other money was for the legal costs that Jani had incurred in trying to recover his lobola.
After getting his money back, a relieved Jani praised the Zimbabwe judicial system for being sound. He also said that he was going to be more circumspect when getting married in future.Â Â
Many women have expressed their frustration at the High Court ruling on lobola refund, asking what happens if the roles are reversed and the husband is the one guilty of cheating. According to legal practitioners, when a husband cheats on his wife, he is not entitled to a lobola refund when the two separate.Â Â
Prince Machaya explains this situation well in an article on the legal position on lobola refunds,
The high court has held that a lobola refund can be demanded in circumstances where a woman cheats on her husband. The other side of the same coin is that where a husband is found cheating, and the wife initiates divorce proceedings, the husband is not entitled to a lobola refund.
Put simply, there has to be a divorce â and if the wifeâs cheating is the cause of separation, a lobola refund can be claimed, and if the husbandâs cheating is the cause of split, lobola is forfeited.
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