The Matrimonial Causes Act, 1 of 1973 (Cap. 29:07 of the Laws of Botswana) was passed by the National Assembly on 27 October, 1972. It was assented to by the then President of Botswana, the late Sir Seretse Khama, on 2 February, 1973, and entered into force a week later on 9 February, 1973. The Act applies to civil marriages only, i.e. marriages concluded in terms of the Marriage Act (Cap. 29:01); customary law marriages have been excluded from its operation. As its short title indicates, the Act deals with matrimonial causes, that is to say divorce, judicial separation and the annulment of marriages and matters incidental thereto such as the property rights of spouses, custody, guardianship, maintenance and the jurisdiction of the courts.
During its first 10 years of existence the Act has been the subject-matter of many a decision of the High Court and provisions of it have been considered also by the Court of Appeal. Most of these decisions deal with divorce. In academic circles, too, the Act received attention, witness the review by Chris Himsworth in the Journal of African Law. This review was written immediately after the Act came into force. An updated account is therefore appropriate. As I intend to approach the Act from a broader historical and jurisprudential angle, I will deal with it afresh rather than use Himsworth's penetrating but positivistic analysis as a frame of reference.