Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, faces possible prosecution for allegedly violating provisions of the Marriages Act if claims by his estranged wife, Jocelyn Chiwenga, are proved true, legal experts said on .
Jocelyn has accused Chiwenga of committing bigamy after the army chief reportedly married Mary Mubaiwa traditional style, forking out at least $40 000.
Mary is the former wife of Zimbabwe international footballer Shingi Kawondera.
Jocelyn said she married Chiwenga in November 1998, under Chapter 37, now 5:11, of the Marriages Act, but the latter walked out on her a year ago, and never communicated until she saw an article in a newspaper suggesting he had married a 28-year-old woman.
She made the damning accusations during a wide-ranging exclusive interview with NewsDay’s sister paper, The Standard, at her Zimsafe offices in Willowvale last week.
Legal practitioners in Harare said the army general risked arrest and prosecution should Jocelyn decide to lodge a formal complaint with the police.
Harare–based lawyer Kudzai Kadzere said: “He (Chiwenga) cannot marry anyone else as long as the first marriage still subsists. He has to first dissolve the first marriage before contracting another one otherwise the whole act becomes criminal.
“You cannot marry any other person, even customarily, because it becomes a criminal offence. The marriage under Chapter 5:11 is monogamous and for as long as it subsists, none of the parties is allowed to marry another person. If you do it, you will be at the risk of being arrested.”
Another legal practitioner, Jeremiah Bamu, concurred, saying: “If he (Chiwenga) marries customarily without terminating the civil marriage, the customary wife will be liable to adultery damages. If the husband purports to register the subsequent marriage, he becomes liable for prosecution on the offence of bigamy. It means Jocelyn is entitled to sue for adultery against the new wife.”
According to Jocelyn, her union to the army general had not been nullified by a competent court in Zimbabwe or anywhere else.
To The Standard, Jocelyn said: “I am still legally married to him because as far as I know, I have never signed any divorce papers, unless he has had someone sign the papers for me, go check at the courts, our marriage is still valid.
“He is not by law supposed to marry another woman until we are legally divorced, but he is abusing the law,” she added.
According to the law, any person married under Chapter 5:11 who gets married to another partner without termination of the first marriage could be charged with bigamy as defined in Section 104 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
Efforts to get comment from Chiwenga were fruitless on Wednesday as the person who answered his known mobile phone number said: “I don’t think this is his number.”
Equally, efforts to get Jocelyn on her next move proved fruitless.
On Wednesday, lawyers said the army chief’s case was not in any way different from cases where individuals have been convicted for bigamy if what Jocelyn said was proven true.
In May 2009, a Harare businessman, Edward Chigwida (31), was slapped with 175 hours of community service by a Harare magistrate for bigamy.
In a similar case, another Harare man was on October 21, 2009 fined $20 and had his second marriage declared null and void after pleading guilty to bigamy.
In yet another case, a Harare woman, Courage Dzimiri (31), who entered a second marriage without annulling the first, was in October last year sentenced to a wholly suspended five-month jail term on condition she performed 175 hours of community service.