Department of Private Law

Academic Qualifications:

  • PhD (London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London);
  • LL.M (King's College, University of London),
  • LLB, UNZA,
  • Certificate, HERS Mid-America Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration, Bryn Mawr College, USA

Chuma Himonga is a Professor of Law, School of Law University of Zambia (UNZA). She is also professor of Law Emeritus, University of Cape Town where she worked until her retirement in 2017 and a member of the College of Fellows of the University of Cape Town. 

She held the Department of Science and Technology South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Customary Law, Indigenous Values and Human Rights (at the University of Cape Town), funded and managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF), from 2012 to December 2017. She is a NRF-Rated Researcher (i.e. established national and international researcher). 

Professor Himonga has served on several Commissions, Committees and Boards, including: the South African Law Reform Commission Project Committee (2003-2006); the Board of the Commission on Folk Law and Legal Pluralism (1999 to date); member of the International Working Group of legal educators that established the International Association of Law Schools (2004-2005); member of the Board of the International Association of Law School (2005 - 2010); and Chair of the seven-member international committee to plan the International Association of Law Schools Educational Conference on ‘Effective Techniques for Teaching about other Cultures and Legal Systems’ held in Montreal, Canada, 30 May 2008.

Membership of Professional bodies:

  • Member of the International Society on Family Law
  • Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Cape Town;
  • Member of the College of Fellows of the University of Cape Town
Research Interests
  • African Customary Law
  • Legal Pluralism
  • Comparative African Family Law
  • Women’s  and Children’s Rights under Customary Law  in Southern Africa
  • Law of Persons and Marriage
  • Human Rights as they relate to family law.

Major Research collaborations and Projects: 

  • University of Ottawa Research Chair on Legal Diversity and Indigenous Peoples, research on The State and Indigenous legal cultures: Law in search of legitimacy 
  • School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town: under the auspices of the Programme for Enhancement of Research Capacity (PERC): African Research Project on Knowledge Production. T
  • FORAREA (Bavarian research network for area-studies), conducted under an agreement  between the Network and the (then) Bavarian State Ministry for Science, Research, Education and the Arts and defined under the rubric “interdisciplinary and interuniversity research on regions outside Europe”
  • University of Bayreuth, Germany: Research on Zambian family law and succession within the Sonderforsschungsbereich 214 Identitat in Africa (1988-1994).
  • University of Zimbabwe, Children and Law in Eastern and Southern Africa (CLESA)
  • Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust (WLSA) (1988-1993 as active researcher and associate researcher)

Major Research awards and recognition: 

  • 2016 Alan Pifer Research Award, the (University of Cape Town) Vice-Chancellor’s Award, made annually in recognition of outstanding research that demonstrates relevance to the advancement and welfare of South Africa’s disadvantaged people.
  • Member of the College of Fellows of the University of Cape Town (2017)
  • University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor’s Exceeds Award in recognition of exceptional performance during the 2015/2016 annual performance cycle

Selected Publications 


  • 2016 - Family and Succession Law (Zambia), Supplement 81, International Encyclopaedia of Laws Kluwer Law International, pp. 266
  • 2015 - (with E Moore) Reform of Customary Marriage, Divorce and Succession Living Customary Law and Social Realities, Juta & Co. (Pty) Ltd pp. 374.
  • 2014 - (with T Nhlapo (eds), African Customary Law in South Africa Post-Apartheid and Living Law Perspectives, Oxford University Press Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd.
  • 1995 - Family and Succession Law in Zambia: Developments Since Independence,, Munster, Lit. Verlag, pp. 335.

Chapters in Books

  • 2017 - ‘The Constitutional Court of Justice Moseneke and the decolonisation of law in South Africa: Revisiting the relationship between indigenous and common law’ in - Penelope Andrews, Dennis Davis and Tabeth Masengu (eds) A Warrior for Justice Essays in Honour of Dikgang Moseneke Acta Juridica (2017)
  • 2014 - ‘The Nature and Concept of Customary Law’ in C Himonga and T Nhlapo (eds), African Customary Law in South Africa Post-Apartheid and Living Law Perspectives Oxford University Press Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd, 23-39.
  • ‘Consequences of Marriage’ in - C Himonga and T Nhlapo, African Customary Law in South Africa Post-Apartheid and Living Law Perspectives (2014), Oxford University Press Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd, 23-39.
  • 2014 - ‘Dissolution of a Customary Marriage by Divorce in J Heaton (ed) The Law of Divorce and Dissolution of Life Partnerships in South Africa’ (, Juta & Co. Ltd, 231-278.
  • 2014 - (with G Hagg ‘Twenty Years of Reconciling Traditional Governance with Modern Democracy’ in Meyiwa, T, Nkondo, M, Chitiga-Mabugu, M, Sithole, M, Francis Nyamnjoh, State of the Nation 2014.South Africa 1994-2014: A Twenty-Year Review, HSRC Press, 106-126.
  • 2013 - (with A Pope), Mayelane v Ngwenyama and Minister for Home Affairs: A Refection on Wider Implications, in A Claassens & D Smythe (eds), Marriage, Land and Custom, Juta & Co. Ltd, 318-338.
  • 2012 - ‘Constitutional Rights of Women under Customary Law in Southern Africa: Dominant Interventions and "Old Pathways"’ in B Baines et al (eds) Feminist Constitutionalism Global perspectives, Cambridge University press 317-335.
  • 2012 -  ‘Taking the Gap – “Living Law Land Grabbing” in the Context of Customary Succession Laws in Southern Africa’ in H Mostert and T Bennett (ed) Pluralism and Development Studies in Access to Property in Africa ACTA Juridica 114-139.
  • 2012 - Exploring the Concept of Ubuntu in the South African Legal System’ in U Kischel et al Ideologie und Weltschauung im Recht Mohr Siebeck 1- 22 (peer reviewed conference proceedings).
  • 2011 - ‘The Future of Living Customary Law in African Legal Systems in the Twenty-First Century and Beyond with Special Reference to South Africa’ in J Fenrich et al - (ed) The Future of African Customary Law - Cambridge University Press - 31-57.
  • 2011 - (with J Stewart) ‘Teaching Women, Social Realities, Family and the Law’ in African Legal Systems’ in A Tsanga/J Stewart Women and Law: Innovative Approaches to Teaching, Research and Analysis Weaver Press 223-257.
  • 2008 - ‘African Customary Law and Children’s Rights: Intersections and Domains in a New Era’ in Julia Sloth-Nielsen (ed) Children’s Rights in Africa A Legal Perspective, Ashgate Publishing Company Limited 73-91.
  • 2007 -  Revision of Wille's Principles of South African Law (2007), Francois Dubois (ed) Juta & CO, 145-386:
    • Chapter 8 Birth, name, domicile and death;
    • Chapter 9 - Unborn persons
    • Chapter 10 - Females
    • Chapter 11 - Children (minors)
    • Chapter 12 - Extra-marital children
    • Chapter 13 – Marriage
    • Chapter 14 - (with Dubois) Life partnerships
    • Chapter 15 - Mentally incapacitated persons.
  • 2006 - Taking Stock of Changes to Customary Law in a New South Africa’ in Essays in Honour of AJ Kerr, Butterworths Lexis Nexis, 215-235.
  • 2006 - (with R Manjoo), ‘What’s in a Name? The Identity and Reform of Customary Law in South Africa’s Constitutional Dispensation’ in MO Hinz, (ed), The Shade of New Leaves: Governance in African Tradition a Southern Africa Perspective Muster Lit 329-350.
  • 2000 - 'Law and Gender in Southern Africa: Human Rights and Family Law' in Y Bradshaw & S Ndegwa (eds) The Uncertain Promise of Southern Africa, University Press, 275-300.
  • 1998 - `The Right of the Child to Participate in Decision-Making: A Perspective from Zambia', W Ncube (ed) Law, Culture Tradition and Children's Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa, Ashgate Dartmouth, 95-128.
  • 1997 - 'Law and Culture in South Africa: Towards an Understanding of a Pluralistic Legal system', R Blanpain (ed), Law in Motion (1), The Hague, Kluwer International (Conference proceedings), 75-98.
  • 1995 - 'Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Project: Bridging the Divide between Scholarship and Action', in R Mechthild & G Ludwar-Ene (eds.), Gender and Identity in Africa, Hamburg, Lit Verlag, 197-214.
  • 1993 - 'Protection of Widows and Administration of Customary Estates in Zambian Courts', in G Ludwar-Ene & R Mechthild (eds), Gros-Plan sur les Femmes en Afrique/Afrikanische Frauen im Blick/Focus on Women in Africa), University of Bayreuth African Studies Series, 159-195.
  • 1990 - 'Integration of Family Law in Zambia: Marriage and Succession Law' in J Abun-Nasr/U Spellenberg/U Wanitzek (eds) Law, Society and National Identity in Africa, Hamburg, Helmut Buske Verlag, 163-182.
  • 1989  - (with C Beyani) 'Access to Legal Education and the Legal Profession in Zambia' in N Kibble/R Dhavan/W L Twining (eds), Access to Legal Education and the Legal Profession London, Butterworths, 234-244.
  • 1987 - 'Property Disputes in Law and Practice: Dissolution of Marriage in Zambia' in A Armstrong (ed) Women and Law in Southern Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe Publishing House, 56-84.


  • 2017 - E Moore and C Himonga ‘Centering the intersection of race, class, and gender when a customary marriage ends: An intersection critique of the Recognition of customary marriages of 1998, Agenda - 
  • 2017 - F Osman and C Himonga The constitutionality of s 7(1) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act: Ramhovhi v President of the Republic of South Africa, The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law vol 49, 2017, issue 2, 166-182 at doi/full/10.1080/07329113. 2017.1344483
  • 2016 - K Button, - E Moore, C Himonga) ‘South Africa’s System of Dispute - of Resolution Forums: The Role of the Family and the State in Customary Marriage Dissolution’ Journal of Southern African Studies 2016 42(2) 299-316)
  • 2013 - (with A Pope & M Taylor) ‘Reflections on Judicial views on uBuntu’ Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal - PELJ 2013(16) (5)
  • 2013 - ‘Right to Health in an African Cultural Context: the Role of Ubuntu in the Realisation of the Right to Health with Special Reference to South Africa’ (2013) Journal of African Law 57-2, 165-195.
  • 2013 - (with A Pope) ‘Mayelane v Nwenyama and Minister for Home Affairs: A Reflection on Wider Implications’ (2013) ACTA Juridica 318-338.
  • 2011 - ‘Taking the Gap - 'Living Law Land Grabbing' in the Context of Customary Succession Laws in Southern Africa’ (2011) ACTA Juridica 114-139.
  • 2010 - ‘State and Individual Perspectives of a Mixed Legal System in Southern African Contexts with Special Reference to Personal Law’ (2010) Tulane European and Civil Law Forum vol. 25, 23-36.
  • 2008 - ‘Zambia, Breaking the Tie, Enduring Fragmentation, and Reform Beyond 2007: the Matrimonial Causes Law’ (2008) International Survey of Family Law 497-523.
  • 2007 - (with Anita Cook) ‘A Child’s Autonomy with Special Reference to Reproductive Medical Decision-Making in South African Law: Mere Illusion or Real Autonomy?’ (2007) 15 The International Journal of Children’s Rights 323-363.
  • 2005 - ‘The Advancement of African Women’s Rights in the First Decade of Democracy in South Africa: the Reform of the Customary Law of Marriage and Succession’ (2005) Acta Juridica 82-107.
  • 2003 - 'Inheritance Conflicts over the Matrimonial Home: Safeguarding the Family against Homelessness (Zambia)' (2003) The International Survey of Family Law 461-469.
  • 2002 - 'Implementing the Rights of the Child in African Legal Systems: The Mthembu Journey in Search of Justice' (2002) International Journal of Children's Rights 9, 89-122.
  • (2001 - ‘Zambia: Protecting the Minor Child's Inheritance Rights' (2001) The International Survey of Family Law 457-473.
  • 2000 - (with C Bosch) ‘The Application of Customary Law under the Constitution of South Africa: Problems Solved or Just Beginning?’ (2000) SALJ Vol. 117 306-341.
Contact Details;