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How lobola really works

By Faeza
27 June 2016

ALTHOUGH lobola is a practice that is still widely observed in African countries, including Mzansi, it remains a notion that many question and have little knowledge about. Lobola is never intended to be a business deal, but a gift from the

groom's family to the parents of the bride.

A TOKEN OF APPRECIATION

Enos Moeti, a North West University lecturer in African languages, author and researcher, says in African culture, marriage cannot take place without two families exchanging gifts. “The process of marriage begins with lobola. It signifies respect to the parents of both the bride and the groom. The bride price is an acknowledgment that the marriage is legitimate and confirms the commitment of the groom to the bride and illustrates his love for her,” Enos says. He adds that lobola is also a symbol of appreciation from the groom’s family to the bride's family for raising her. “It symbolises how much the girl is valued and brings the two families together,” he says. Apart from this, paying lobola shows a man’s intention to marry a woman and build a family with her.

WHO SHOULD NEGOTIATE?

Enos says lobola negotiations are usually very formal and can take days to be concluded, pointing out that “these negotiations are not carried out by the parents of the prospective groom but his relatives, such as his uncles and aunts.” During negotiations, there are

rules that need to be respected. “The tension between the two teams during the talks is

broken by an offer of a bottle of brandy (pulamolomo in Sesotho or vul'umlomo in isiZulu) by the groom’s family to the bride’s family.” Enos adds that back in day the bride price was a number of cattle agreed upon, but these days money is used instead.