Mone­tary de­mands of lobola leave much to be de­sired

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

WHILE grow­ing up, I was al­ways fas­ci­nated by the idea of lobola ne­go­ti­a­tions. I looked for­ward to be­ing Maja Ditl­hogo (un­cle) and head­ing the lobola ne­go­ti­a­tions for my niece or nephew. Be­cause, the idea of unit­ing two fam­i­lies that are most likely very dif­fer­ent is still fas­ci­nat­ing.

How­ever, I did not know that lobola, be­ing a bridal price, has to be that ex­pen­sive. The groom or the groom’s fam­ily go all out and rob banks to ful­fil these “Thank you” ef­forts.

Black peo­ple have turned this sacred prac­tice into a busi­ness trans­ac­tion. We have com­mer­cialised it a lot. It baf­fles me. The rea­son­ing be­hind the ex­or­bi­tant prices tags (for a lack of a bet­ter phrase) is very un­rea­son­able.

First, it is the par­ents’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to raise their child well. I do not think that there is a par­ent out there who wants to raise a child that is with­out man­ners. So, if the fun­da­men­tal rea­son for rais­ing a well-man­nered daugh­ter is be­cause she is go­ing to be some­one’s wife one day, then so­ci­ety’s stan­dards are more messed up than I en­vis­aged.

Sec­ond, it is ev­ery par­ent’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure they af­ford a good ed­u­ca­tion for their child or chil­dren. You en­abling your daugh­ter to at­tend univer­sity to be­come an en­gi­neer, doc­tor, com­puter sci­en­tist, ac­coun­tant or lawyer, should have noth­ing to do with the lobola price tag you put on your child.

But to­day, we take them to school and come back to say; she is a doc­tor, thus we want R70 000. For what? Peo­ple want to be “paid back” the money they spent on pay­ing fees for their own daugh­ter, who is their own re­spon­si­bil­ity as their own child, for giv­ing her an ed­u­ca­tion? How messed up is that? It is so sad that many cou­ples don’t make it to be­ing called hus­band and wife be­cause of the fri­vol­ity of their un­cles or ne­go­tia­tors. Some peo­ple can­not af­ford the ex­pen­sive lobola claims they are given.

We have be­trayed our own African tra­di­tion.

Third, there will be the down­side to the ne­go­ti­a­tions. In Setswana they say: “O e gapa le na­mane or di­na­mane,” mean­ing, some­one wants to marry a wo­man who has chil­dren from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship.

The ar­gu­ment states they have to pay less for this bride-to-be, be­cause she has a child. Nev­er­the­less, the groom who sent these un­cles or ne­go­tia­tors knows about the child/chil­dren.

There is no mea­sure­ment of the guy’s suit­abil­ity for the wo­man he is about to marry.

Him be­ing able to af­ford that R20 000 to R100 000 or more for lobola does not make him a be­fit­ting part­ner for the wo­man he wants to marry.

We still con­tinue with the pa­tri­archy prac­tices even in things that in­volve two grown-up peo­ple.

The wo­man is “pun­ished” for hav­ing a child and the man can do as he pleases. We do such in­jus­tice to our daugh­ters and nieces, we re­duce them to some­one’s fu­ture hus­band and don’t see them as in­di­vid­u­als. Be­cause if we did, we wouldn’t have this ob­ses­sion to give crazy price tags for their lobola.

We fo­cus so much on money like it is every­thing to a mar­riage. It is need­less to say that many fam­i­lies start broke, due to this crazy lobola price tags.

Is lobola still rel­e­vant in the world we live in to­day?

We should re­mem­ber that the lobola cer­e­mony is about bring­ing two peo­ple, two fam­i­lies and the larger com­mu­ni­ties to­gether.

I look for­ward to my first lobola ne­go­ti­a­tions; the chance to re­store the dig­nity and the pride in the cer­e­mony that our fore­fa­thers started many moons ago. I be­lieve that there is power in this spir­i­tual and so­cial prac­tice called lobola. Let’s re­think it, and if that fails, let’s aban­don it. Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala is the Founder of the Young Men Move­ment (YMM). Email: ka­be­lo03cha­bal­ala@gmail.com; Twit­ter: @Ka­be­loJay; Face­book: Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala

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