HARARE provincial magistrate Mr Munamato Mutevedzi yesterday cancelled a marriage licence he recently issued to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his fiancée Ms Elizabeth Macheka.
High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu dismissed Mr Tsvangirai's urgent chamber application to suspend the lower court's decision early this morning.
The application also sought an order allowing the wedding to be held today.
Mr Mutevedzi was convinced that an unregistered customary law marriage existed after watching a video recording showing the PM's emissaries paying lobola to the Karimatsenga family on November 11 last year.
The PM also had his bid to issue Ms Karimatsenga's lawyers with a divorce token of US$1 before the magistrate thrown out.
The US$1 note was attached to an affidavit brought before the magistrate during the inquiry.
The PM and Ms Macheka (who is being cited in the magistrate's ruling as Ms Guma) were set to tie the knot at Raintree Gardens in Umwinsidale, Harare, today.
Mr Mutevedzi issued a marriage licence to the couple on August 27, but cancelled it yesterday after lawyers representing Ms Karimatsenga proved the existence of an unregistered customary law marriage between their client and the PM.
The magistrate said it was criminal for one to enter into a monogamous marriage (Chapter 5:11) when they were already in an unregistered marriage.
He cited Section 104 (1) (c) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which criminalises the intended marriage, saying he could not allow the PM to commit an offence.
The section reads: "Any person being a party to . . . a potentially polygamous marriage and knowing that the marriage still subsists, intentionally purports to
enter into a monogamous marriage with any person other than his or her spouse by the potentially polygamous marriage shall be guilty of bigamy."
Mr Mutevedzi said the video recording and documentary proof produced by Ms Karimatsenga's lawyers convinced him that an unregistered customary law marriage existed.
"In that video recording, it was clear that contrary to the unsubstantiated assertion by Mr Tsvangirai that he had only paid damages for impregnating Ms Karimatsenga out of wedlock, the ceremony was payment of lobola, which culminated in Mr Tsvangirai's emissaries asking for their in-laws' blessing to have a white wedding.
"The items tabulated on the list of roora tally with the items mentioned in the video recording.
"On a balance of probabilities, the scale tips in the direction that for all intents and purposes, this was a marriage between Mr Tsvangirai and Ms Karimatsenga," ruled the magistrate.
In an additional affidavit filed by the PM's lawyers, the PM shifted his defence from denying ever paying roora to disowning the emissaries.
The PM argued that the emissaries acted without his blessings and that he had not sent them to pay roora for Ms Karimatsenga, which argument the magistrate described as "fathomable".
"The delegation from his side (PM) was quite big and very joyous. There were large quantities of groceries that were bought and generally there was quite some merry making synonymous with a planned ceremony.
"I have no doubt that claiming otherwise is only a futile attempt by him (PM) to deny the obvious," said Mr Mutevedzi.
Mr Mutevedzi said the PM was wrong in sending the divorce token through the magistrate.
"Firstly, gupuro (divorce token) is not channelled through a magistrate or a marriage officer. There are recognised customary ways of doing it, which must be followed.
"Secondly, it cannot be given simply because the woman has raised an objection to Mr Tsvangirai's intended wedding. Thirdly, there are consequences attendant upon that process, which must be complied with for divorce process to be complete just like it is not enough under general law to simply issue summons and end there," he said.
Mr Mutevedzi also found that the process was flawed since Ms Karimatsenga was not personally in attendance.
The magistrate said he could not sanction the wedding knowing that the PM was committing an offence.
"If his intended marriage to Ms Guma (Macheka) proceeds, it is potentially bigamous," said Mr Mutevedzi.
"I cannot sanction the wedding when it is clear to me that the parties to that marriage may be committing an offence.
"There is need for Mr Tsvangirai to sweep clean these issues before seeking to be married in holy matrimony.
"I am, therefore, convinced that Ms Karimatsenga's objection to the intended marriage indeed shows a lawful impediment to that marriage. By virtue of the powers I have in terms of Section 19(3) of the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) I shall as I hereby do cancel the marriage licence I gave to Morgan Tsvangirai and Elizabeth Mazvita Guma on August 27 2012," he said.