Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday circumvented a court ruling blocking his wedding after an ex-lover tried to stop the union.
Tsvangirai, 60, dressed in a black suit and Elizabeth Macheka, 35, in a white gown exchanged rings before hundreds of guests at a plush Harare wedding venue overlooking a flowing river.
The prime minister, whose wife of 31 years, Susan, was killed in a car accident in March 2009, had originally planned his marriage under the country’s monogamous laws.
However, Tsvangirai decided to get round the court order resulting in the cancellation of his marriage license by staging the nuptials under an alternative customary law that allows a man to have as many wives as he wants.
The court ruling on Friday was ex-lover Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo’s second attempt to block the marriage after a high court earlier in the week threw out her case on grounds that she failed to prove she was the prime minister’s wife. However, she went to a lower court armed with video evidence of the traditional marriage ceremony during which Tsvangirai’s emissaries were shown paying the bride price on his behalf.
An urgent appeal lodged by Tsvangirai early on Saturday at the high court to overturn the magistrate’s ruling was dismissed, forcing him to marry under a different law or cancel the ceremony.
Tsvangirai ended his union with Tembo last year, saying the relationship had been “irretrievably damaged” to the point where marriage had become “inconceivable.”
The magistrates court on Thursday dismissed a similar case by a South African woman who claimed the prime minister promised to marry her.
“Our celebration is a customary one ... We still have to celebrate [a monogamous marriage] when the climate is clear,” the Catholic priest who conducted the ceremony said.
The pair did not sign a register recording the marriage as monogamous, as they had wished.
A senior officer from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said the “wedding ... is different from the one that was denied by the courts.”
Macheka is the daughter of a senior member of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, which was forced into a compromise coalition government with Tsvangrai’s MDC after election chaos in 2008.
However, Mugabe boycotted the ceremony, which was attended by Zimbabwean Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.
A pipe band from one of Harare’s top private schools played as Tsvangirai walked on a white carpet into the wedding ceremony, while a violinist played Here Comes the Bride for Macheka. A banquet reception was due to be held at Harare’s 25,000-seater Glamis Stadium.
Tsvangirai’s first wife died just weeks after he went into a unity government with his long-time rival Mugabe following failed elections in 2008.