Rethabile is 27. The man is in love. Well: he may not be head over heels in love. But he is certainly in a long-term relationship that is set to go to the next level. He might be getting married to Nomsa. Rethabile has a great job in marketing at a radio station in Sandton. He has a neat ride and dresses well. It is what is: he is on the up and up and a man of this generation. Things are all good in his life it seems. Yes: it is all going so well his sweetheart has raised the idea of them getting married in the near future.
Should he want to make a lifetime commitment to Nomsa he must marry her. Should he want to marry her he has to pay lobola. His girlfriend insists he must pay lobola for her. And she has a fair idea of the amount of money the elders of her household might want him to pay as lobola. Rethabile has his concerns though: He does not want to pay lobolo. Should he pay, he is keen to put up what you could describe as a pittance for the bride price: he plans on paying six thousand rand in cash or so for his future wife and nothing more.
He is young. Like is peers he has big plans for the future. He finished college at the University of Pretoria not long ago. He wants a great start in life for himself. He wants to buy a house and build a comfortable retirement nest for himself and his family. Would a sixty thousand rand lobola payment for his future bride be the perfect start for him in life?
Well: As thing stands Rethabile would have to ask his parents or friends for financial support as his savings will not suffice should he make a firm commitment to pay lobola. Or he will have to approach his bank manager for a high-interest loan that will definitely set him back for a number of years. But should he apply for a loan successfully the idealistic lifestyle he seeks might still elude him.
What if his marriage suffers a breakdown and the love of his life leaves him for another man – or girl – just after a year of marriage? Would her father return his the sixty thousand rands he paid as lobola? I think not good people. Rethabile would have a lot of heartbreak and debt management issues to deal with almost simultaneously.
His ex-father-in-law would still have the money Rethabile coughed up hanging about in his account somewhere. That is the way it is in Africa. But is this lobola tradition a fair and just system or should African cultures consider dropping lobola? Should lobola be modified to suit the realities of life in 2016 where gender quality is commonly espoused by all? Is lobola a part of a patriarchal system that should be done away with forever? I get that marriage is a holy union but I do not get the part where lobola should be a sacrosanct tradition.
I also get that it is important for the family of the bride to build a lifetime relationship with the family of groom. It is healthy for all persons connected to the marriage: the children, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents and all. I just do not get the part where a sixty thousand rand payment comes into the fray.
Proponents of lobolo say a man must pay lobola as the children from a marital union belong to their father. Not these days: The courts have the final say on custodial disputes. Were the demands of lobolo small in monetary terms but high in symbolic significance I would support it wholeheartedly. Lobola often results in a man feeling entitled to say and do certain things for they have paid for the right to do so. And the lobola seems to infer a man is the head of his household and what he says or does whether potentially good or downright destructive simply goes.
Many families expect a groom to fork out a small fortune for lobola and a white wedding at the same time. Is that not a lot to expect from a twenty-something still making his way up the corporate ladder? The tricky part is many families find a way to make a white wedding a well-pronounced and non-negotiable clause in the lobola agreement that is cast in stone.
Many a man: this includes fathers and uncles and brothers as well take lobola negotiations seriously; too seriously in fact as they see it as a potential money spinner; a big pay day for the big man of the house.
Lobola enthusiasts say a man should be compensated for the great work he has done in raising his daughter. A pat on the back or a strong handshake should do just fine honestly.
No man must be paid for raising his daughter – no, no, no. No man should be paid for caring for his flesh and blood.
No man should be paid for sending his daughter to school or university; no, no, no; you cannot and should not put a price on fatherly or motherly love and support.
No man or woman should be paid for raising a girl into a fine and respectable woman – no, no, no. It is the normal thing to do in society.
No man should get a cent for raising his baby girl; no, no, no; he should not get a single dime; raising a child well is the proper and manly thing to do.
For no man is paid for raising his boy into a man. Why should he expect any different for his baby girl?