Cohabitating couples vulnerable on inheritance matters

CUSTOMARY MARRIAGE … Chief Ndilimani Iipumbu shows a customary marriage certificate, with Uukwambi Traditional Authority senior councillor Dominikus Shivute next to him. Photo: Eliaser Ndeyanale

Social work specialist Lovisa Nghipandulwa says most couples who are cohabitating are not protected in terms of inheritance when one partner dies.

Her assertion comes after the Uukwambi Traditional Authority urged heads of traditional authorities to refer unmarried couples, especially those cohabiting, to the traditional court for marriage ceremonies to secure inheritance rights.

This call came from Maria Angungu, a representative of the Uukwambi Traditional Authority legal committee, who spoke at a community meeting at Uukwangula in the Oshana region on Wednesday.

Nghipandulwa says either party of a couple could be vulnerable when a relationship comes to an end.

This she says results in court battles in the case of separation, a dispute or death, especially in instances when they buy assets jointly.

Nghipandulwa added that society may also not recognise cohabiting couples the same way as married couples.

“There is little support system for this type of union because they happen without the blessings of the parents, church or institutions where marriages are normally recognised,” she said.

She added that if couples want some sense of recognition, protection and security in the eyes of their loved ones, they should legalise their relationship.

Commenting on the same issue, former University of Namibia law lecturer Fritz Nghiishililwa told The Namibian on Thursday that customary marriages are recognised in Namibia because customary laws work parallel with the common law, meaning marriages, inheritance and the appointment of kings and queens are recognised.

“Provided that such practice does not conflict with the common law or the Constitution. The only customary practice which is not allowed by the government is that part which offends the Constitution, which violates the practice of common law or an act of parliament, but any other practice that is not offending the the practice of the law is applicable,” Nghiishililwa said.


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