Restitution of gift in contemplation of marriage

I am a young businessman based in Arusha. This year has been a tragic one for me. I gave my fiancé a diamond ring for our engagement. However before we could get married, my fiancé died in a car accident and now I want to recover the engagement ring from her family. To my surprise, the family refused to return it. According to them, the customs of her people prohibits return of such gifts and since we had no children, my fiancé left her next of kin as her heirs. The diamond ring is the most important item of remembrance of our love. It is also a very expensive ring, and I am determined to get it back. What does the law say about this? Kindly advise me. 
VB, Arusha

We are sorry to hear about your loss. In general legal understanding, a marriage is a contract between two parties. In Tanzania matters related to marriages are governed by the Law of Marriage Act [Cap. 29 R.E 2019] (LMA).  The LMA provided that gifts given in contemplation of marriage may be returned. According to  section 71 of the LMA, a suit may be brought for the return of any gift made in contemplation of a marriage which has not been contracted, where the Court is satisfied that it was made with the intention on the part of the giver that it should be conditional on the marriage being contracted, but not otherwise.

The law provides a right to recovery subject to satisfaction that the gift was in fact conditional to the marriage. Gift given in contemplation of a marriage can be of different but since you have mentioned an engagement ring our advice is limited to that item only. We have not found cases in Tanzania on engagement rings but the position in other common law countries is that engagement rings are intended to be conditional gifts. The reason given by Courts is that the ring is in theory a pledge of the parties’ intention to marry. The giver of the gift (donor) may not recover where he is the one who in whatever way prevented the marriage from taking place. Here, the receiver of the gift (done) may retain the gift. Conversely, the donee is required to return the gift if she is the reason the marriage was never contracted. However, if neither of the parties prevented the marriage, there is an implied term that the gift will return to the donor and in that case, you may recover the ring. Your lawyer can guide you further.