Lobola: A Refund To The Family?

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Photo: Lindo-Mar Khumbane

This publication caters mostly to university students and college students, which means that it caters to young people. Young people have ambitions and they believe in a wide variety of things. One of those things is love – the sweet nectar of affection. Love is a beautiful thing once you experience it. However, it rarely comes unchallenged.

Young people dream of soul mates and the fairytale of “happily ever after.” How many times have you heard someone speak of “the one” and wonder if their current person is what they have always wanted? Now, whether you believe this is a delusion or not, it does happen that someone meet the love of their life. For university students, this could be the person you attend class with. I have read about people who met in varsity and now are happily married.

The journey to that happily married status is not an easy one. You are, right now, a student and you are involved with someone you hope to someday marry. Let’s say, by the grace of God, you manage to graduate together without any mishaps. The next step is to officialise the relationship because you wish to do things right.

If you practice African customs, you know that means you have to pay Lobola for this individual you are so fond of. You just graduated; you, by the grace God, got a job, and now you earn what seems like enough to take care of you and your person for the next few years. She is your soul mate, you think, so you have to do things right. Like the couple in the video above, the lady tells him that, “if you really love me, we need to do things right.” You respect your woman and you want to do things the right way so you propose for Lobola – send the uncles!

Your uncles get impressed by how much you have grown and became a responsible young man, so they heed to the call only to be met by her crazy uncles who demand a hefty amount of cash because she is educated. As if you are not educated. As if you did not meet her in the very institution she got her precious degree from. They come back, like in the video, with the bad news, “Hundred thousand ilobolo,” said the uncle.

I am not preaching hate towards the practice of Lobola but one has to wonder if it is still the practice of bringing two families together or a business. The young man in the video loves his woman but what is the way forward in the absence of this hefty amount? If you have just graduated, you are probably facing debt already. You have to pay NSFAS (most probably), you have to deal with black tax, you have to dress well, you probably have a dream to start your own business (that needs money) and now you have to pay a very large amount to keep the one you love.

In this situation, you are left with two options: withdraw or get a loan. Option one will most likely end the relationship. Option two is the mostly likely option to be chosen but it means that you will start a marriage with debt hanging over you. This debt will probably never be paid off because as life goes on, more debt is made. You still owe NSFAS, you have to buy (loan money) a house, a car, clothes, furniture… OMG – You are screwed!

Now let me ask you, is the hefty amount a refund for raising the beautiful lady? Isn’t this money supposed to be the start of your marriage? Yes, I know that some families use that money to help with the wedding. Not all of them do that.

The practice of Lobola, unlike in the olden days, has been nothing but an insult to African Customs. It has, like the church, become a business and an exploitation of the people who respect and practice it.


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"It's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you." Rachel #BatmanBegins

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