THE lobola debate has been raging for years, ranging from the pricing structure to the commodification of women.
Whereas some have taken advantage of lobola to enrich themselves, there have been debates if Government or “society” should sit down and stipulate what should be paid.
And some argue that lobola no longer has a place in modern society, arguing that lobola was introduced before there was equality. A woman was expected to submit to her husband.
If one pays lobola, he makes the rules in the house and expects his wife to follow them religiously.
Then there are those who question why one should lobola for another being?
Back in the day, when a man discovered that his wife was not a virgin, he would not pay a cow to thank his in-laws for raising an upright wife for him. With virginity no longer a priority these days, what still justifies lobola payment?
Is lobola still a channel of joining families? If so, how do we charge that channel? In an economy like ours, which currency do we use, US dollars, bonds or mobile money?
And what should be used to value the bride: level of education or virginity?
Since we have “borrowed” equality from the West, shouldn’t we go ahead and “borrow” the other norms that come with equality? For instance in the same West, they don’t pay any lobola.
There is no way equality is going to be successful as long as men pay lobola.
Recently, there was a trending story on social media about a girl who was demanding her boyfriend to bring United States dollars and she declared that she was not be married off with bond notes. But why would people demand US dollars where the majority are earning the local currency?
It looks like lobola has ceased being a blessing like what it was but it is some competition, where families pride themselves of having overcharged or having charged US dollars.
A friend of mine wanted to marry his long-time girlfriend three years ago and she told him that her parents can only accept not less than US$10 000.
He was just coming out of college and was now working as a doctor. He told her that he could not raise that much, the only amount he could pay was US$2 500. This is what he could raise. Just like the social media girl, she told him that he was crazy and that she could not be married with a small amount like that according to how she valued herself.
Whilst my friend tried to convince her for two months, she maintained that he didn’t love her enough if he could not raise US$10 000. That is how they broke up.
He went on to marry another girl whom he dated later on and her parents accepted his US$1 700. Over the years he became successful and is literally looking after his in-laws. Actually he has built them a house, much more than the US$10 000 that his other girlfriend demanded.
Lobola has caused many families to be short-sighted as they narrow their vision and interests on how much lobola must be paid, forgetting that life is a long journey. In Shona, there is a saying that “mukuwasha muwonde haupere kudyiwa”, that a son-in-law is a fruit tree that delivers to no end.
As the economy is biting, we have seen a drop in marriages, as more couples are opting for eloping, rather than paying lobola. Could it be because we have made lobola expensive and now we are discouraging people to marry?
If we don’t address these issues around lobola, probably making it a token like it used to be, it will die on its own as couples and more live-ins become the order of the day.
Others have resolved to remain single. “I can’t marry because I have no money”.
Brian Matsaira is a love and relationships coach and can be reached on [email protected]