LOBOLA HAS been a part of Mzansi culture for ages.
But this is the 21st century and parents of young men eager to marry wonder if lobola is still a worthy tradition.
OR IS IT SIMPLY A WAY TO GRAB BIG MONEY FROM FUTURE HUSBANDS?
Mzansi recently got talking about this touchy subject after a radio station asked listeners what they thought about the matter.
According to customary law lecturer Zama Mopai, the practice of lobola negotiations has become exploitative and corrupt – in fact, an extortion.
She said according to customary law it is acceptable for a groom to pay as little as R50 for lobola.
“We see fewer black people getting married than in the past. This is because lobola has become expensive and it is discouraging for future husbands and their families,” Mopai told Daily Sun.
“The process has turned out to be a business transaction, moving away from its original purpose, which is to bring two families together.”
She said this is why in some cases women want to contribute to lobola.
“People who negotiate lobola must understand the purpose. It should not be as expensive as it has become,” she said.
Mopai said the two primary reasons for the lobola is for the groom’s family to acknowledge that they are removing the bride from her family, and incorporating her into another family where she will be valuable. Also, the reproduction right transfers, as the bride will be bearing children.
She said the token of appreciation which lobola is supposed to be can be anything, not only hard cash.
She agreed things might not be the same as they were in the past, when livestock was presented as a token of appreciation. Now the practice has evolved into a kind of test for men.
“Today we commonly see men expected to pay a lot of money towards lobola, often through bank transfers. This is to test his intentions to see if he is serious about taking the bride and also if he will be able to care for his family financially.
“It’s shocking that some men are forced to take out huge personal loans.
“This is a misunderstanding of the process, which has become a commercial proposition. In some cases men end up feeling as if they have bought their wives and own them because of the money spent.”
She added: “Lobola is not a one day process. Issues surrounding the bride being highly educated or having great household skills cannot determine her value. We cannot put a monetary value on human life.”
Phepsile Maseko‚ national coordinator of the Traditional Healers Organisation, said a live cow still remains relevant even in today’s lobola process.
“It should be presented by the groom’s family and symbolises the presence of the ancestors. The cow cannot be slaughtered but should be kept by the bride’s family. When the focus lies only on money during lobola negotiations, the spiritual way of doing things is not done. This might lead to troubles in the bride’s future as her ancestors didn’t move with her to guide her. Then she will always remain an outcast.”