COMES AT A PRICE

Fewer black peo­ple are get­ting mar­ried in SA as par­ents’ bride-price de­mands be­come more and more un­rea­son­able. Is this the end of lobola?

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

The prac­tice of lobola or bride price is pre­vent­ing many black South Africans from walk­ing down the aisle. Lo­cal stud­ies show that over the years, as lobola has be­come more com­mer­cialised, fewer black peo­ple are get­ting mar­ried. And when those who do get mar­ried di­vorce quickly, lobola is blamed on the grounds that the re­la­tion­ships were founded on busi­ness trans­ac­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est data from Stats SA, there is a con­sis­tent de­cline in the num­ber of peo­ple get­ting mar­ried in this coun­try. This af­fects all forms of mar­riage – be it cus­tom­ary or civil. In a re­cently re­leased study ti­tled Mar­riages and Di­vorces 2014, Stats SA studied 150 852 mar­riages reg­is­tered in 2014, of which 3 062 were cus­tom­ary mar­riages and 1 144 were civil unions.

The study showed that, while fewer mar­riages were tak­ing place, di­vorce was also on the rise. About 24 700 di­vorces were fi­nalised in 2014 – a 3.4% in­crease from the pre­vi­ous year.

Of these, 37.1% of di­vorces in­volved black South Africans. While there were var­i­ous rea­sons be­hind the low mar­riage rates and high di­vorce rates in South Africa, lobola ap­peared to be one of the ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

The study, con­ducted by Dori Posel and Stephanie Rud­wick of the Univer­sity of KwaZu­luNatal, found that lobola con­trib­uted to de­layed mar­riages or even re­fusal to marry among black South Africans. The con­clu­sion of this lat­est study added to a litany of re­search that had ar­rived at sim­i­lar find­ings.

Lobola is an age-old cus­tom that in­volves the trans­fer of cat­tle from the prospec­tive hus­band to the fam­ily of his prospec­tive bride.

The main func­tion of this cus­tom was to of­fer a to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the par­ents of the bride-tobe for rais­ing her. It also serves as a sym­bol of pride that their daugh­ter would never starve when she joins her new fam­ily. It is also a sym­bol of readi­ness for the young man to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of be­ing a hus­band.

The prob­lem with modern bride price, as study au­thors noted, is that “it has be­come com­mer­cialised” over the years with some par­ents de­mand­ing “ex­or­bi­tant com­pen­sa­tion” in ex­change for their daugh­ter’s hand in mar­riage. This, ac­cord­ing to the study, has re­sulted in de­layed mar­riages and low mar­riage rates among black South Africans.

Inkosi Phathi­sizwe Chiliza of eMadun­geni in the KwaZulu-Natal mid­lands, who is chair­per­son of the pro­vin­cial house of tra­di­tional lead­ers, said the re­search was spot-on be­cause mar­riage had be­come “a rare oc­cur­rence, even in ru­ral ar­eas where there used to be a wed­ding al­most ev­ery week­end”.

He said: “We lost the plot when lobola moved from be­ing a to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion to a busi­ness trans­ac­tion.”

Cul­tural ex­pert Masilo Lamla of the Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity in the East­ern Cape agreed, adding: “The day a price tag was placed on lobola was the day this cus­tom lost its value.”

“Lobola was never about money, but about form­ing a bond be­tween two fam­i­lies. What we are wit­ness­ing to­day where peo­ple ex­change large amounts of cash is some­thing else,” Lamla said.

Chiliza said it was tragic that lobola has been turned into a “busi­ness trans­ac­tion where the bride is sold to the high­est bid­der”.

He said he of­ten hears of fathers de­mand­ing more money for their daugh­ters be­cause “they are ed­u­cated”.

“What does ed­u­ca­tion have to do with a woman leav­ing her fa­ther’s house and go­ing to start her fam­ily with her hus­band? Were the par­ents not sup­posed to en­sure that their daugh­ter goes to school?” he asked.

“This is not tra­di­tion and the sooner we re­alise it, the bet­ter it will be for our chil­dren,” Chiliza said.

Lamla ex­plained that in some tribal groups, a num­ber of cows are de­manded from the prospec­tive groom.

“In to­day’s world, a cow can cost more than R10 000. If the fam­ily is de­mand­ing 11 cows, it means the prospec­tive groom must pay R110 000. The ma­jor­ity of black South Africans can­not af­ford to pay such an amount,” he said.

Both Chiliza and Lamla said lobola must be re­viewed. “If it con­tin­ues the way it is now, our daugh­ters will never get mar­ried,” said Chiliza.

In the days be­fore Sir Theophilus Shep­stone im­posed a fig­ure of 11 cat­tle as a stan­dard for lobola for Zulu peo­ple, five cows suf­ficed as the bride

TALK TO US Do you think lobola should be reg­u­lated or just stopped?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word LOBOLA and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 price. Two cows would be for the mother of the bride, two for the fa­ther and one for the bride, Chiliza ex­plained.

“The no­tion of 11 cows was in­tro­duced by Shep­stone, who thought lobola was a busi­ness trans­ac­tion. We need to cor­rect this so that we can pre­vent fur­ther dis­tor­tions by re­view­ing what lobola is and what par­ents can ex­pect from a man when he asks for their daugh­ter’s hand in mar­riage,” he said.

PHOTO: ARTI PROJECTS

FOR RICHER Mthokozisi Khathi, bet­ter known as DJ Tira, along­side his bride, Gugu Khathi, cel­e­brat­ing um­abo, which is a Zulu tra­di­tion where the fam­i­lies of the bride and groom ex­change gifts in cel­e­bra­tion of the union. The cer­e­mony took place in Non­goma in KwaZulu-Natal

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