The Customary Court of Appeal, sitting in Francistown on January 28, has rejected Alfred Tshambani Phusumane’s appeal to have his dowry returned after his newly married wife deserted him after less than a week.
The facts of the matter are that in April 2006, Phusumane paid P11 300 in dowry money and married Wedu Nsendami. After a couple of days, Nsendami’s boyfriend visited her at her matrimonial home in Zwenshambe where a commotion ensued as the boyfriend threatened to beat her up in front of her husband. Hardly week later, Nsendami, who comes from Makaleng, left her matrimonial home for her parents one at Makaleng.
When it became clear that she had no intentions to go back to Zwenshambe, her husband sent the Nsendami family sms messages demanding his dowry money back. The Nsendami family responded positively, even committing themselves to a date on which they would do return the dowry.
After the Nsendami family had not refunded the Phusumane family by July 2006, Phusumane approached the Makaleng Customary Court for intervention. When the presiding officer of the Makaleng Customary Court, Kgosi Katlholo Ramokate, failed to make a clear ruling, the complainant approached the Customary Court of Appeal for redress but lost the case. The relentless Phusumane sought audience with the High Court which referred the matter back to the Makaleng customary court where, once again, he lost.
Unfazed, he appealed to the Customary Court of Appeal. At its sitting at the end of January this year in Francistown, the Customary Court of Appeal president, Christopher Masunga, upheld Kgosi Ramokate’s judgement. “In Setswana culture generally, dowry may be returned to the husband’s family only if, after it has been paid, the woman changes her mind and refuses to get married,” said Kgosi Masunga, who emphasised the fact that in the case of Alfred Phusumane and Wedu Nsendami, the marriage had indeed taken place.
According to Kgosi Masunga, dowry is like any other gift and cannot be demanded back. “ Re tshwanetse ra lemoga fa bogadi e se mafisa, bogadi ke mpho,” he explained and appealed to Phusumane to live with the fact that marriages break and when that happens, the concerned must accept that as reality. He appealed to the complainant to recognise the fact that he is not the first person to find himself in that kind of situation.Phusumane has 30 days to appeal to the High Court.