Should you ever pay your own lobola? Here's what the experts say


I’ve been living with my partner for five years and we love each other. We have two children and he wants to marry me. The problem is he doesn’t have money and feels that even if he starts saving now, by the time we get married one of our children will be finishing varsity and we will be getting ready for retirement.

Read more: I HATE LOBOLA!

I’ve been saving for years on my emergency fund and I’m tempted to help him pay lobola for me. But it feels like I’m marrying myself. I know if I lend him the money, he’ll pay me back. Is this a good or bad idea? Please help me make sense of this situation. CONFUSED


WE HAD a very bitter lady as one of our recent clients. She dated this guy for over five years and they had two children. They lived together against the advice of her parents. She made much more money than him and they planned to wed. However, her family asked for a lot of money, which he clearly couldn’t afford. He’d been saving, but had only managed to scrape together R10 000, which was close to nothing compared to what was required.

Read more: ‘My fiancé is no longer in love with me – what do I do?’

He asked her to take out a loan under her name, since he wouldn’t be approved for that amount, and he promised to service the loan back in installments. She did it, because she wanted to formalise their relationship and save him embarrassment in her family. The loan was put in her name and the lobola was paid.

He paid her back for the first four months, but then just stopped as he couldn’t afford to service the debt. She had to carry on paying the loan to the bank since it was in her name. Things unfortunately didn’t work out between them and their marriage was annulled. Her parents didn’t want to have anything to do with him. So much so, they insisted on paying back his lobola.


And he didn’t refuse. However, her family requested her help in returning “his” lobola money. She then had to take another loan to help her parents pay the lobola back to him. When he received the money, he didn’t pay her back the initial lobola money. Her issue was not so much the money but the realisation that she’d basically paid lobola for herself, and had to pay again to buy herself out of the relationship.


Lobola is one of the most sacredly held cultural practices, irrespective of how urbanised and progressive the couple is. It is a token of gratitude on the part of the bridegroom’s people to those of the bride for their care over her and for allowing her to become his wife. It is a demonstration of how much the woman is valued by both families. It denotes respectability, worthiness and appreciation. As a valued person

at marriage, she is not stolen but given away under mutual agreement between the two families. It is verification in concrete terms that the families have agreed to the marriage of the son and daughter. It’s a sign of approval by the families.


Lobola starts the process of marriage as an expression of honour to the parents, but it’s also an undertaking of responsibility on behalf of the spouse. Paying lobola shows commitment on the bridegroom’s part and it’s a serious show of love, not just in words but also in deeds. Lobola is a public acknowledgement the marriage is genuine.


Because of lobola, the husband and wife can’t easily separate and divorce. There must always be discussion with the family members first. In the olden days, this

made marriage more binding. When a woman contributes towards her own lobola, it takes away so much. Not only does it go against the traditional practice, but it’s also a matter of principle, and it breaks the principle.

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By the sound of things, it seems as if your boyfriend does have problems with paying the lobola. Clearly, lobola means something to your parents as well. We suggest you encourage him to save or even consider taking a second job in order to meet the lobola requirements. You’ll be amazed at how you’ll appreciate him just knowing he’s willing to do anything to be with you in marriage. Your love will be enhanced. But we wouldn’t recommend you pay or even contribute a cent towards your own lobola.

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