Is Lobola/Lobolo Still relevant?

Lobola is an age-old African custom that is as alive today as it was 100 years ago however; certain aspects of it have changed.

Lobolo or Lobola in, ZuluXhosa and Ndebele (Mahadi in SesothoRoora in Shona, and Magadi in Northern Sotho), sometimes translate as bride price, is a customary Southern African ritual whereby the man pays the family of his fiancée for her hand in marriage. (Compare with the European dowry custom where the woman brings assets.) The tradition is designed for bringing the two families together, nurturing shared admiration, and signifying that the man is proficient of supporting his wife money-wise. In addition, it is also regarded as one of the pillars that should grip the two families—and particularly the couple—sturdy.

Customarily, the Lobolo compensation was in cattle as cattle were regarded (still are to some tribes) as crucial mark of wealth in African society. However, numerous contemporary urban couples have altered to using hard cash.

Culture changes – with time, life gets more expensive and love is now for those with good credit – or am I exaggerating? The custom of lobola has evolved into an overpriced extortionist cultural practice. Lobola was a cultural practice where a man thanked the parents of his future wife, for raising her from a girl to a woman.

The obsoleteness of this cultural practice has raised a lot of questions as many people starts to question the relevance of it. Fana the Purp (2012) argues that lobola should be cancelled, as it is about affordability instead of culture and love.

“The parents had no right to demand an unreasonable amount for lobola, as the man is going to take care of their daughter. As culture evolved, lobola turned into a fixed payment process to acquire a wife then later turned into negotiation battle – where the woman’s family tries to get as much as they can from the man’s family. The nature of lobola moved from thanking to compensating – I am not disputing commodity involvement yet lobola has adopted an inflation system.”

Others argues that “ If it was up to me I wouldn't let my man pay a cent, I think the lobola is unfair, nobody has to pay money to be with someone they love. Money or no money, people who love each other should stay together”

In contrast, a friend of mine contends that “We cannot have a blanket approach to it. Every man should be happy to pay lobola, we should see as your pride and assurance to the family that you can take care of their daughter. It reasons sufficient then if we are to conclude that every man's case should be valued independently.”

The reality of the debate is centered around money. People(s) question the notion of attaching money to love. Is it worth it?

We live in the world of divorce, this Lobola money is none refundable and the criterias used to measure the value of the woman are flawed. People like to hide behind the name of culture, they do things that are logically insensible and say “it’s my culture”.

My question to you is, do you think culture should be a determinant factor if two people who love each other have to be together or not? In the age of economical dependence, how much do you think is an appropriate price and why? Is Lobola still relevant?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against this custom, I just need clarification. DR Martin Luther King would say: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. It is an issue that matters to many South Africans including the fact that there are trans-racial marriages nowadays. One can marry any one no matter the pigmentation of their skin.

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