Preacher Fined For Failure To Marry

A Seventh Day Adventist lay preacher has been fined P2,000 or two beasts by the Customary Court of Appeal for breaching a marriage promise. Edgar Mothudi was taken to court by the mother of his three children, Mmamarope Mafokate who demanded P16,000 or 16 heads of cattle.

She said the preacher breached a promise to marry her and wasted her time. The couple had stayed together for more than 16 years until Mothudi left to marry another woman. However, the Urban Customary Court dismissed Mafokate’s case and ruled that Mothudi has never made any promise to marry her.

In his defence, Mothudi denied that he ever promised Mafokate marriage. He told the court that in 1993 when Mafokate asked him when he was going to marry her, he responded that he was not going to do it because her child was disrespectful to him. Mothudi found Mafokate with one child. He said he also told her that the other reason why he could not marry her is that they were of different religions.

He added that in 2001 he informed Mafokate again that he does not have any plans to marry her. He said he told her that she was free to find somebody who could marry her. He moved into his own house that year and informed her it was over.

Mothudi said in 2003, Mafokate asked whether it was true that he was getting married and he denied it. He said she told him that there was nothing wrong if he gets married as long as he maintains his children. He told the court that after she gave him the go ahead to get married, he got a spouse.

In her evidence, Mafokate said she fell in love with Mothudi in 1988. She said he found her with a four-year-old daughter. Mafokate said Mothudi promised that he will marry her and they bore three children. But then, she complained that he dumped her for another woman.

She said if he had not promised to marry her, she could not have had children with him. Mafokate said that Mothudi had wasted her time for 16 years.

Mothudi incriminated himself when he wrote a letter to Mafokate in which he was seeking an apology for what he had done to her. The letter was produced at the Appeals Court as part of the evidence.

Phineas Makepe who was presiding over the appeal said the letter formed a crucial part of the evidence. “It is a complete confession without reservation,” said the presiding officer.

He said the customary court erred by accepting Mothudi’s evidence that he never promised to marry Mafokate. He said the court based its findings on the Setswana culture that a marriage promise could only be made if the parents of both partners have met for discussion. He said the presumption is wrong because people are no longer following their cultures. He said Mothudi could have made a marriage promise without informing the parents.

Makepe said the Customary Courts Act makes it clear that the Setswana culture should only be followed in so far as is not incompatible with the provisions of any written law or contrary to morality, humanity or natural justice.

He ruled that the Urban Customary Court had deprived Mafokate and her children their human rights as enshrined in the constitution. Makepe noted that the Setswana culture oppressed women, adding that it allows irresponsible men to abuse their partners.

He said Mothudi was lying when he told the court that he and Mafokate were from different religions because they were both members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He said Mothudi failed to provide evidence of how Mafokate’s child was disrespectful to him. He ruled that during the 16 years that the couple cohabited, Mothudi treated Mafokate as his wife and blocked other men who could have shown interest in marrying her.

Mothudi has been ordered to pay the fine within two years or his property will be auctioned.

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Mmegi, Botswana
Apr. 4, 2005
Lekopanye Mooketsi

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 4, 2005.
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