Precious Makoti

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In South Africa it`s called Lobola and in other countries it`s called dowry or bride price – this is the cultural practice of asking for a bride`s hand in marriage from her family in gifts, money or livestock. Since the dawn of the 21st century lobola has become a very controversial subject, its controversy has been sparked by people`s greed and that very same greed has also distorted the meaning of the practice.  A lot of eligible bachelorettes are now insisting that they don`t want lobola paid for them despite the cultural connotations to it, reason being they feel as if this practice commodifies them and would be daylight robbery to their partners.

Is lobola still relevant in 2016 – the answer is yes. Lobola is about members of two families both the dead and alive getting to know each other. In African culture we have what we call clan names, people who share a clan name can never get married to each other i.e if your surname is Nxumalo you belong to the Zwide, Ndwandwe and Mkhatshwa clan and if you marry anyone who identifying with these surnames, it would be considered as incest even if you grew up not knowing each other. As a way to prevent kids of the same blood lineage to get married the elders should meet and get to know each others background (a lot of families have paternity secrets).

The lobola practice is also a way of the bride’s family to command respect from the groom’s family – the bride’s family should make themselves known as a family that goes to great lengths to protect their daughters. A bride’s family should act like the holders of a hard to find cure (their daughter) that cures the most fatal condition that affects men only, and once the groom’s family locates the whereabouts of that cure they should be made to climb mountains, walk until their feet hurt and cross rivers were crocodiles live to get to the cure that is placed on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, so that when the cure is finally handed to them they can greatly appreciate the heroine who saved their son’s life.

If we were to make death pay for taking away a loved how much would you make him/her (death) pay? This is how a mother feels when she gives her daughter away in marriage, yes she’ll be happy about her daughter finding happiness but admist her happiness is the sadness of losing a daughter; because of that she’ll want the new beholders of her daughter’s life to pay a hefty price for taking her daughter away from her. We all know how parents especially mothers get when their kids move out of the home, it’s a roller coaster of emotions – she probably worries 10 times more than the bride (her daughter) during the preparations of the wedding.

Men aren’t the same – when a sane man looks at his wife, he’ll  remember how love made him brave the “uncle storms” before he wedded his wife and he’ll think to himself that he fought for her, thus he’ll keep her very close to his heart. An insane man on the other hand will look at his wife and think that he bought her.

One other thing, lobola cannot be returned if it happens that the bride and groom part ways – that goes against culture. The reason why it’s impossible to pay back lobola is that back then lobola was paid in cows and cows are food – how do you tell a person to return a slaughtered and eaten cow? The fact that in some cases money has replaced livestock in lobola negotiations doesn’t mean that it makes it easier to pay back the money – what if the bride’s family has used the money to erect someone’s tombstone, would you ask them to take back the stone and get a refund? That’s why lobola isn’t paid back no matter how much money the groom has paid to his bride’s family.

Men should think of the lobola practice as a knighting ceremony and women should take the practice as another way of her family showing that she’s very precious to them and her new family.

Culture condemn all those who’ve turned lobola into a quick money scheme and it is hoped that a couple of rotten potatoes won’t spoil the whole bag.

If the practice of lobola is conducted properly it is one of the marvels of African culture.

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