MASERU — ‘Malineo Ramootsi’s troubles started when her husband of four years, Thabo Ramootsi, died in 2007.
Her in-laws immediately took the estate that Thabo had left.
They also expelled her from the home she had shared with her husband.
That was the beginning of her running battles with her in-laws.
Since then she has been in and out of the courts of law as she battles to regain control of her husband’s estate.
She approached the High Court suing her in-laws.
In her High Court papers, ‘Malineo said Thabo’s parents had told her that she was not entitled to the estate because she was not married to their son.
In August last year, High Court judge Gabriel Mofolo ruled that she was entitled to the estate because she was married to Thabo in a customary marriage.
But her in-laws did not give up.
They appealed against Justice Mofolo’s judgment on the grounds that the bohali (marriage dowry) cattle were not paid as required under the customary marriage law.
Last Thursday, Appeal Court president Michael Ramodibedi said judgment will be delivered on Friday this week.
“The court will take time to consider this matter. Judgment will be delivered on the 23rd of October in this court,” Justice Ramodibedi said.
‘Malineo’s lawyer, Advocate Makhetha Motsóari, told the Appeal Court that although the bohali cattle were not yet paid before ‘Malineo’s husband died, there was marriage because all parties had agreed to the marriage.
“Two essential requirements of the customary marriage were already fulfilled,” Motsóari said.
“Only one requirement was left but preparations were at an advanced stage for it to be fulfilled. It only happened that the husband died before the date of the bohali payment arrived,” he said.
“There was agreement and what was left was only the execution of the agreement.”
The first requirement for a customary marriage is that the marrying couple should agree on the marriage.
The second aspect is that there should be agreement between the parents or those standing in loco parentis.
The last requirement is that there should be the handing over of part or full payment of bohali to the bride’s parents.
These requirements are contained in Section 34 of the Laws of Lerotholi.
A lawyer representing ‘Malineo’s parents-in-law, Advocate Lebohang Molapo, told the Appeal Court that ‘Malineo was not entitled to the estate as she was not married.
Molapo said the fact that the bohali cattle were not paid, although they were staying as husband and wife, made their marriage null.
“I humbly submit that there was no marriage between the two because there was no payment of bohali as a requirement of law under customary marriage,” Molapo said.
The Appeal Court judgment is expected to set a precedence and is likely to influence amendments in the laws governing customary marriage, legal experts have said.
Advocate Motsóari last Friday told the Sunday Express that judgment on this case is not only highly anticipated by his client but by the majority of the practising lawyers as well.
“This case is likely to make changes on marriages under the customary law,” he said.
If ‘Malineo loses the case she would have lost a residential house and a clothing shop in Maputsoe as well as two vehicles which are part of the estate.