Ilobolo is another form of trading

2012-06-02 09:47

Economics teaches me that an activity whereby a person pays money in exchange for a product or service is called trading.

Ilobolo (in IsiZulu and in Sesotho, magadi) sounds likewise.

Could this imply that parents trade in their daughters?

Traditionalists argue that the practise of ilobolo has got nothing to do with “selling-and-buying”. I contest.

The fact that money exchanges hands automatically makes it a trade of some sort.

They say this practice is done because parents spent a lot raising their daughters.

And I say, the boy’s family also spent a lot. After all, whose responsibility it is to raise a daughter or son anyway?

Ilobolo sounds like a mere degrading of human value.

Even if “the charge” were to be R100 million, no amount of money can buy, substitute or equal the value of a human being.

Marriage was created by God so why turn it into business? Parents are commercialising nature, so it seems.

Like it happened during an interview on national TV’s, SABC1, family programme Relate, in April, once a couple experience problems, some immature men are quick to remind their wives that they paid ilobolo for them.

Thus, these immature men are entitled to set the rules and dictate to their wives, or else they demand their ilobolo back.

This kind of attitude is equal to saying: “I bought you, I own you, you are my property”!

Poor women in marriage have to subject themselves to what “their bosses” do or say and pretend as if all is well.

Unwittingly, most parents focus too much on spending ilobolo than they do on guiding a soon-to-marry couple on how to better handle marital problems.

Some even go as far as refusing to give their daughters a blessing­unless ilobolo is paid in full. For these kind of parents, it means business.

I have learned that starting, let alone maintaining, a family is a challenging and an expensive process marked by typical frustrations that go with money, especially lack thereof.

That being said, how are new families expected to manage financial implications of family-making when parents hold sons-in-law hostage, demanding ilobolo?

Parents, I beg you, let your children enjoy their stay with their “partners” without exerting financial pressure on them.

The best parents can do for their children is to emphasise the essence of faithfulness, true love, respect and perseverance in a union of marriage. Material things should not count for they only come and go.

It’s high time we started questioning – for clarity’s sake – some of the traditional practices especially in cases where there are no convincing reasons why they still exist to this day.

Is it for personal gain?

If anything, then ­ilobolo should be a two-way practice – paid by both sides.

I am a proud African but attaching price tags to marriages is not something I’m fond of.

» Tjemolane is an international relations ­graduate from University of the Free State. He writes in his personal capacity

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