We recently shared the thoughts of writer Paidamoyo Gerald Manomano on the topic of lobola. His somewhat polarising opinion, that lobola is akin to buying and selling women and must be done away with, caused many readers to share their thoughts with us.
This reader wrote to defend the practice:
"There is nothing wrong about lobola. It is the society/families that have abused the lobola and made it what it wasn't meant to be.
Also, the writer is not the revolutionary he thinks he is as parents, including my grandfather who refused to accept lobola for his kids as early as the 1940's, have had this option since time immemorial.
As narrated by my aunts, my grandfather's motivation was the abuse he witnessed his sister being subjected to by her husband because he had paid lobola and her family(great grandparents) could not offer her any sanctuary/protection at her own home. The husband would come to demand his lobola back.
Seeing that my grandparents were not in a good financial position to return the lobola, the husband would then demand his wife returns to his home with him. This became a "regular" practice until the wife passed on.
Must read: "Another form of injustice, like slavery": An African father shares his opinion of lobola
Unfortunately, society failed to protect such women from abuse simply because the men controlled the narrative of having rights over their womenfolk because of lobola.
Lobola didn't and does not grant men any rights to abuse women. Lobola or not; every individual has a right to life, and not being abused or violated. These are the same rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. These rights have existed since forever.
The problem was that society failed to create an environment conducive for women to be able to exercise these rights.
Parents felt obligated through society, peer and family pressure to accept lobola. Some, of course, did it for personal reasons but the option has always been there, unfortunately, very few brave men/families were prepared to take this option for fear; reasonable or not, of being ostracised by the community and family.
Like every good custom or tradition, there comes a time when a certain portion of our society/family develops greed and end up abusing the good practice for their own benefit.
Also read: Just because it's my culture, does it make it right?
The lobola was historically utilised to assist the newlyweds with their needs. As things were not expensive then, some things including wedding ceremony expenses, bricks and mortar to build the couple's first room/house and furniture, including the couples bed, were procured out of lobola funds.
In some families, lobola was secretly given back to the couple via the daughter to cover household expenses in the event of need and/or invest for her future.
It is up to us as members of the society whether we allow the practice to be abused or we create a conducive environment where brides to be/families are truly free to exercise the option of not accepting the lobola.
It would be advisable for those that choose to accept lobola to involve/consult their daughters in every step of the way. This should include a discussion on how lobola funds are to be utilized, including future investment."
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