Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is divorced from former model Mary Mubaiwa, the High Court has declared.
Justice Owen Tagu made the ruling on Thursday after Chiwenga, on November 24 last year, applied for an order declaring the customary union to have terminated.
Lawyers for the former couple made arguments before the judge last week and judgement was reserved.
Justice Tagu has found in favour of Chiwenga, ruling that the union was terminated when Chiwenga sent his emissary, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, Rtd Major General Anselem Sanyatwe, with US$100 as a token of divorce on November 24, 2019.
Mubaiwa, through her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, told the court that she had rejected the token, known in Shona culture as ‘gupuro’, because the United States dollar was not the country’s legal tender.
Justice Tagu said despite Mubaiwa’s arguments, she also accepted that their marriage had met its “demise.” The reason for the collapse of the marriage, which Mubaiwa blamed on Chiwenga, is “irrelevant”, the judge said.
“The application is allowed with costs,” Tagu ruled. “It is declared that by the time proceedings in HC 9837/19 were instituted, the customary union between the parties had ceased to subsist.
“The ancillary issues relating to custody, maintenance and property rights of the parties are stood down for determination at trial, which shall be set down by the defendant as and when she is able to prosecute the matter.”
Chiwenga, through his lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri, told the High Court that it was taking too long for the divorce hearing to go to trial because of Mubaiwa’s poor health. He asked the court to leave other matters like division of assets and child custody for when Mubaiwa’s health has improved, and to make a determination on the narrow point of whether their marriage was terminated.
Mubaiwa opposed the application, arguing that determining the matter separately this would adversely affect her rights and those of their three children.
The judge said that the trial had not started because of Mubaiwa’s poor health “is public knowledge” and it is “not clear when the trial will take place” and any delays “would inevitably result in prejudice to Chiwenga.”
Justice Tagu added: “Since it is not necessary to prove which spouse was at fault in causing the break-up of the union, there is no link between distribution of the assets and dissolution of the union. Mubaiwa has not provided a reason for arguing that the issues should not be separated.
“The issue of (child) custody does not present any court with insurmountable difficulty as the best interests of the children are the paramount consideration. No cogent basis has been given for opposing the relief sought. In fact Chiwenga would suffer prejudice if the determination of the status of the customary union was held back simply to suit Mubaiwa’s convenience.”
Chiwenga entered a customary union with Mubaiwa in 2012 after he divorced his wife, Jocelyn, and she left her footballer husband Shingi Kawondera.
Meanwhile, a Harare magistrate is expected to deliver judgement on Friday in Mubaiwa’s trial in which she was accused of fraudulently trying to upgrade the customary union to a civil marriage without Chiwenga’s knowledge.
Chiwenga testified as a witness after controversially asking the court to clear the public gallery.