Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

‘Modern lobola: Unjust enrichment’

By Frank Tawanda Chikumbu and Jabulani Gwapedza

As the world continues to evolve from the traditional methods of creating relations into embracing the modern day ways which are mainly guided by monetary value, lobola payments is of no exception.

File picture of a Lobola Ceremony in South Africa
File picture of a Lobola Ceremony in South Africa

Traditionally, lobola was viewed as a customary token paid by the groom-to-be to his in-laws as a way of showing appreciation. The idea of paying lobola has been there since time immemorial, although the concept keeps changing every now and again but the core rational of its existence should not be dynamic to suit the economics of the day.

Back in the old years, lobola was paid using a hoe made buy a prominent and well known iron smelter. To them the hoe was everything, they used it for Agricultural purposes and also it was the most sort after tool. The idea behind the lobola was to create family ties between the two families.

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It was primarily a way to formalize the relationship between the man and the woman as well as their respective families. However, technology, education and the economic meltdown has brought a new dimension to the Zimbabwean lobola payment. Some in laws are using this initiative as a way to make profits and they have since commercialized the whole thing.

There is surely a tendency of reaping far too much beyond the means of the one paying. I see no sense in burdening a young man just starting in life with almost a lifetime debt, its anti prosperity. Some parents nowadays even charge more, taking into consideration that their child is educated and holds a Bachelors or masters degree.

It is mind blowing that some parents even want to use that opportunity to make the groom pay back all the expenses they faced in up bringing their child. They end up charging money which is out of the groom’s capacity and hence creating a friction between the newly married couple.

Over the years, women rights have taken the podium and it is the “the” word even to the most remote rural areas. These women rights were advocated for in a bid to emancipate the girl child, empower them to be self- sustaining, for them to be viewed as equal to men or to share the same footing with their male counterparts. The women rights were aimed at encouraging gender equity.

However, these women rights seem to be turning a blind eye on the issue of Lobola. If these women really needs to be at par with men, there is need to do away with unreasonable amounts of lobola that we are falling victims to. Organizations that are advocating women rights should advocate for the abolishment of lobola for two reasons.

If men and women are truly equal it does not make sense to have only men pay lobola, women should pay also or no one should pay. Alternatively, there is need for the advocacy of a legal framework which regulates how lobola should be charged. Traditionally, the in-laws did not put price tags on the girl child; however it was the sole responsibility of the groom to appreciate his in-laws.

Legally lobola is not a requirement for marriage. Following the passing into law of the Legal age of majority act, the emancipation of female status was broadened. In the case of Hosho v Hasisi HH 491/15 the court actually made mention of the legal fact that lobola is not a requirement for marriage. It is practiced because it is culture and tradition.

The constitution of Zimbabwe (constitutional amendment No. 20 of 2013), being the supreme law of the land states that, under section 78 (1) that every person who has attained the age of 18 has the right to found a family.

Payment of lobola or compliance with the cultural practices associated with founding a family was not made a prerequisite for marriage. Further section 63 (b) also states that a person has the right to participate in the culture of their choice. However, there is need to either adopt a legal framework on which sets a yardstick to measure lobola.

On Education, it is sad that parents are educating their daughters not for their child’s benefit but to increase the market value of their daughter. Some parents even dictate to their daughters the programs or fields they want them to study at universities.

Nevertheless, gender based violence is partly a child of such selfishness. The so called “educated” bride now fails to submit to her husband  because she is well versed with the knowledge of women rights, the male counterpart argues that ‘I paid for lobola, an amount your parents even charged more’.

At the end of the day the newly married couple is fighting over and over while not mentioning anything about the lobola. The groom secretly feels he paid a lot of money and he deserves to be treated in a way that pleases him. Should he think he’s not getting what he paid for, gender based violence becomes inevitable.

On the contrary there are certain men who did not pay a single cent to their in-laws and still expects their wives to be as submissive as they wish. It is not fair at all everyone should play their part. Biblically Jacob worked for Laban because he loved Rachel and he did not have money.

It was one of the traditional ways of paying lobola here in Zimbabwe (kutema ugariri). So payment of lobola was never a once off thing one would pay via so many ways in the subsistence of the marriage. The modern day practices have since changed our world.