HOURS after a High Court judge gave Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai the all-clear to wed his girlfriend Elizabeth Macheka on Wednesday, the bride-to-be got together with friends and family for her bridal party.
The 35-year-old widow – bar an intervention by the courts – will walk down the aisle on Saturday as the new Mrs Tsvangirai.
For her bridal party, Elizabeth – a mum of three whose soldier husband died in 2004 – wore a maroon Indian sari. It was the same type of dress as the one she wore to a Michael W. Smith concert last month.
Earlier, Elizabeth sat through a meeting with Tsvangirai and their lawyers where they were briefed on the court ruling, and fresh attempts to stop their wedding by the Prime Minister’s ex-lover, Locardia Karimatsenga, who says she is customarily married to the 60-year-old.
A source said: "They were trying to plan for what might happen on Saturday."
Justice Antonia Guvava threw out an injunction request by Karimatsenga after ruling that she had not exhausted remedies provided for in the Marriage Act in cases where one party has an objection.
She ruled that Karimatsenga, 39, could have lodged her objection with the magistrate who issued a marriage licence to Tsvangirai and his bride-to-be.
Karimatsenga’s lawyer, Everson Samkange, said: “We have sent the objection to the magistrate. As we speak, the objection is now before the magistrate and he is obliged to conduct an inquiry on whether or not there is any impediment.
“Our position is clear, there is surely an impediment.”
He vowed they would “continue to fight for the wedding to be stopped”, saying proof of Tsvangirai’s traditional marriage to Karimatsenga last November – in the form of a DVD – had been submitted to magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi.
Samukange said: "The magistrate who is going to hear the objection can watch the DVD and see for himself that indeed a marriage ceremony was conducted.”
Dumisani Mtombeni, also part of Karimatsenga’s legal team, said the marriage saga was a test case for women’s marriage rights.
"This case has always been about the ordinary African woman who has done so much for her family, who has worked so hard for a family, who has been so loving but has always suffered immense irreparable prejudices," said Mtombeni.
Legal experts said the chances of the wedding being stopped were very slim if the law was strictly applied.
," said lawyer Lance Mambondiani.
But human rights lawyer Khanyisela Moyo said Karimatsenga – who miscarried Tsvangirai’s baby in March – had a good moral argument which taken with the legal facts could build a case against the wedding going through.
“Locardia has a point. Any person with the right mental capacity would have waited for a lover who has just miscarried his baby to heal before publicly declaring his love for another woman. This may not be a legal issue in the strict sense, but it is a moral issue and lawyers who understood jurisprudence at law school know that there is something called the ‘inner morality of the law’,” she said.
Justice Guvava also struck a sympathetic tone in her ruling, but said that even if Karimatsenga was customarily married to Tsvangirai, such an unregistered marriage was not legally valid. She said the legislature only recognised the marriage for certain purposes.
Justice Guvava pointed out that the loophole was affecting thousands of women in Zimbabwe and that the legislature should do something to harmonise the three types of marriage – unregistered customary, registered customary and civil unions.
The judge said the majority of women in Zimbabwe were customarily married and were facing legal challenges in cases of divorce, inheritance and others.
Tsvangirai’s lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu said: “In my view, the judge was abundantly clear in her reasoning. While accepting that Karimatsenga has a theoretical remedy under Section 19 of the Marriages Act, she nonetheless found that her claims pertaining to the existence of a customary law union do not afford her any rights at law.
“Accordingly, Karimatsenga does not in my view, have the right to proceed under Section 19 of the marriages Act given her circumstances. If she does proceed, she would have abused the magnanimous process of the court.
“Such obtuse intransigence in the face of a well-reasoned judgment would be frowned upon. Sadly we will be forced to descend upon her with as much force as we may be able to amass.”
Tsvangirai plans to marry Elizabeth – the daughter of Zanu PF's former Chitungwiza mayor Joseph Macheka – at the at Raintree Lodge in Umwinsidale, Harare, on Saturday.
Some 500 guests – including President Robert Mugabe and a dozen African leaders – have been invited to the wedding.
Tsvangirai's wife and mother of their six children, Susan, died in a car crash in March 2009.
Since then, Tsvangirai has been linked with a string of women. A year after his wife's death, he impregnated a 22-year-old Bulawayo woman. Loreta Nyathi gave birth to a baby boy named Ethan, but Tsvangirai is yet to see the tot even though he has agreed to pay US$1,400 monthly maintenance for both mother and child to stave off court action.