Zimbabwe chief fines Morgan Tsvangirai over 'wedding'

Morgan Tsvangirai (27 March 2008)
Image caption Morgan Tsvangirai accuses security agents of interfering in his private life

A traditional court in Zimbabwe has fined Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for breaking a cultural taboo by paying a bride price in November.

He was ordered to pay two cows, two sheep and 10 metres of cotton cloth.

The prime minister refused to attend the hearing because it was "manifestly illegal", his lawyer said.

Mr Tsvangirai paid a bride price to marry a businesswoman before calling off their relationship, saying it had been "hijacked" for political reasons.

He was ordered to appear before a court headed by chief Negomo in Mashonaland Central province.

"Our hearing went on well, despite the prime minister's decision to disrespect the court by absconding," chief Negomo's assessor, Maj Cairo Mhandu, is quoted by Zimbabwe's privately owned The Standard newspaper as saying.

'Sacred month'

"We gave him 30 days to pay and if he doesn't, we will send debt collectors after him and attach whatever we can."

Maj Mhandu said the family of his former fiancee, Locadia Tembo, was also fined.

"His in-laws were ordered to pay two cattle, two sheep and a goat because they agreed to receive his money during a sacred month," he said, The Standard reports.

Mr Tsvangirai and Ms Tembo belong to the Shona ethnic group, which believes that marriage proceedings in November bring bad luck.

Mr Tsvangirai's lawyer Selby Hwacha said the court had no power to hear the case.

"From a legal point, Tsvangirai will not appear before your court because the entire process is manifestly illegal and void," Mr Hwacha said in response to the chief's summons, The Standard reports.

"It appears to us that you have not read and/or that you do not understand the law, province and your limits as a traditional chief."

The traditional ceremony, where the bride price of several thousand dollars was paid on 18 November, took place in Christon Bank, about 25km (15 miles) north of Harare.

The area falls under the jurisdiction of chief Negomo.

On 30 November, Mr Tsvangirai said he had called off his relationship with Ms Tembo - a commodity trader and sister of an MP in President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

He accused the security services of interfering in his private life and said that his relationship with Ms Tembo had been "irretrievable damaged".

Mr Tsvangirai's first wife, Susan, died in a car crash soon after he became prime minister.

Tension between Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and Zanu-PF has been growing ahead of elections, expected next year.

The two parties have been in a coalition government since 2009, following elections marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging.

Mr Tsvangirai boycotted a run-off vote, claiming he had been cheated out of victory in the first round.

He and Mr Mugabe agreed to form a power-sharing government following mediation by regional leaders.

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites