The People v Chitambala (1969) Z.R.142 (H.C)

Facts

The accused was charged with bigamy. The facts disclosed that while married to Annie Mumbi, his wife, he voluntarily went through another marriage with Grace Lombe. It was found that he still went on with the marriage ceremony despite the blatant warnings of a Prosecution Witness who went by the name of Wilson.  At trial, the accused told the court that he did not know that his former statutory marriage under the Marriage Ordinance was still intact. Indeed, if this ignorance truly existed at the time, then it would mean the accused would be acquitted.

Issue

Whether the accused did not know that his earlier marriage conducted under customary law was still viable and consequently whether he was deserving of a full acquittal?

Held

The court held that the accused knew full well what bigamy was and that he was only pretending not to have knowledge that his earlier marriage to Annie Mumbi was still intact. Furthermore, his disregard of Wilson’s (Prosecution Witness Seven) warning of the dangers of bigamy showed that he understood what the meaning of the word was. Furthermore, the court held that a marriage under the Marriage Ordinance is not dissolved by a customary law divorce and the parties are not free to remarry.

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