By Charity M. Ngabirano
Celebrating a marriage is one way of ending the year in style. And the much known Canaanland pastor, Aloysius Bugingo, together with his lover, Suzan Makula Nantaba, decided to close 2021 with a function that has left many speechless, elders cursing and fed social media with juicy content. This is not because she’s allegedly not beautiful without makeup or that this is a boss-employee affair that has not ended in tears. What has made the occasion unique is the fact that Bugingo has made the bold move to marry another woman before concluding his first marriage with Teddy Naluswa.
First, as adults and citizens of Uganda, Bugingo and Makula have the right to marry and found a family as per the Constitution of this land. In this case, they chose to do a customary marriage, which is one of the marriages recognised by the laws of Uganda. They also satisfied the requirement that both of them should enter into a marriage willingly and while in their right minds. At least we can assume that part, going by their public appearances.
However, it should be remembered that the groom, in his recent glamourous kwanjula customary marriage, is still a party to divorce proceedings whose hearing has not even kicked off, having failed to settle at the mediation stage. This, therefore, renders the two lovebirds’ customary marriage invalid and non-existent for that matter.
The Marriage Act, which governs Bugingo and Teddy’s marriage, is very clear on this issue; any person who is still in an existing civil marriage (church marriage is also known as civil marriage) is incapable of contracting a valid marriage under any customary law. Section 11 of the Customary Marriage (Registration) Act puts another nail in this coffin by emphasising that; a customary marriage shall be void (not recognised by law) if one of the parties has previously contracted a monogamous marriage, which is still subsisting. Civil marriages are meant to be monogamous.
One may argue that customary marriages are polygamous by law. Sadly, until Bugingo sorts out his issues with the mother of his children and ends that marriage officially, we can only congratulate them on their colourful party that took the country by storm. There is no valid marriage existing between him and Makula. Actually, Makula is still single at the moment and can enter into another marriage if she so wished at this point. The pair’s woes are far from over because even the kukyala (formal visit the groom-to-be makes at the girl’s parents’ home) they did is also not recognised as a marriage.
A marriage can be dissolved by court even in instances where the other party declines to show up and participate in the proceedings. The circumstances surrounding Bugingo and Teddy’s marriage show that the two have not stayed together for a while and the current move of Bugingo officially showing off his latest love, will render the Teddy-Bugingo relationship to have irrevocably broken down and not worth saving
To make matters worse, the Man of God could be persecuted and punished because the law also makes his customary marriage with Susan Makula an offence since he is still married to Teddy Naluswa. The two have been married since the early 1990s and have four children together.
The right thing Makula and Bugingo had to do was wait for the divorce proceedings to be concluded. In this case, the pastor would be a fully single man ready to mix and mingle, and their nice decoration would not go to waste. The church marriage can only be dissolved by courts of law, or by the death of one of the parties. Very loud corridor rumours, however, have it that Teddy has refused to grant the man a divorce, citing the religious code that prohibits divorce. She is so far successful, but this will not last for long.
Under what circumstances can a marriage be dissolved?
A marriage can be dissolved by court even in instances where the other party declines to show up and participate in the proceedings. The circumstances surrounding Bugingo and Teddy’s marriage show that the two have not stayed together for a while and the current move of Bugingo officially showing off his latest love, will render the Teddy-Bugingo relationship to have irrevocably broken down and not worth saving. The courts will have no option, but to dissolve the marriage even if Teddy does not agree to it, as long as her long lost husband proves his case to the court’s satisfaction. If you take a look at the final document that dissolves a marriage (Decree Absolute), you will be shocked to find that Teddy’s signature is not required anywhere.
The court will issue a Decree Nisi first, when it’s satisfied with the grounds for divorce. This decree states that the marriage is coming to an end and if there are children, who is responsible for them, plus issues connected to the division of property. Court then gives you six months to determine whether or not you really want to divorce. It is during this time that couples are encouraged to sort out their issues and see if they can get back together. Court gives you time to make up your minds. At the lapse of these six months, if things are still bad, then court will issue a Decree Absolute, officially dissolving the marriage.
After this, I am curious to know if the new couple on the block will redo their marriage. We can only let time show us what is coming up next, in this telenovela.
What property is Makula entitled to?
Currently, the only person recognised as a wife of Bugingo is Teddy Naluswa. She and the kids take first priority to his estate and even if he made a Will excluding them, that Will would be challenged in the courts of law as being invalid. The best he can do is include Makula in his Will as anyone else he has gifted. Bugingo might have abandoned his first marriage and started a new life, but that does not take away the legal effects of the marriage. A wife’s right to property trumps over a Will.
In that regard, property that amounts to matrimonial property cannot be brought into this circus. That is solely between Bugingo and Teddy. Matrimonial property is the property that a couple chooses to call home, land where the family derives sustenance and/or that which they jointly contributed to. Where a spouse makes a substantial contribution to the property, it will also be considered matrimonial property. The contribution may be direct and monetary or indirect and non-monetary.
If the divorce finally comes through, they will have to divide that property, and if after this, Makula and Bugingo go ahead and get married, then as a wife, she will be entitled to a claim in his estate.
The writer is an advocate
Note: The article is intended to provide information about general statements of law and is not intended to create an advocate-client relationship. Contact a lawyer on specific legal problems