The accreditation of over 100 Imams as marriage officers has paved the way for the official recognition of the marriages of Muslim couples in South Africa, allowing them to be recorded on the National Population Register and so to receive the full legal status afforded by the country's Constitution.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for Imams qualifying as marriage officers in Cape Town on Wednesday, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said: "Today, in partnership with the Muslim community, government has been able to accredit over 100 Imams as marriage officers under the 1961 Marriage Act.
"This will enable the legal official recognition of the unions of Muslim couples. Out of this initial step we will be able to push back the frontiers of exclusion that have so long been visited on the Muslim community."
Motlanthe said the graduation marked the start of a new chapter in the history of the Muslim community in the country, adding that, as South Africa celebrated 20 years of democracy, its vision of unity, non-racialism and non-sexism was gradually becoming a reality.
"As a result of the Imams being designated as marriage officers in terms of the Marriages Act (25) of 1961, the registration of Muslim unions will accord Muslim marriages legal status and with that, the protective instruments of the secular state may be accessed to ensure that these Qur'anic values are realised and complied with within the Constitutional state."
Congratulating the Imams on their graduation, Motlanthe added: "Impressively, we are advised that to pass the two hour exam set by the Learning Academy of the Department of Home Affairs, candidates had to obtain a mark of no less than 70%, and many were able to exceed that requirement.
"Let me take this opportunity to wish you all the very best as you begin your new responsibility in the service of our people."