The Sunday Mail
Life Issues with FGK
A man drives into a head on collision on purpose, killing himself, his wife and their one-year-old toddler. He felt there was no reason for him to live anymore after his in-laws had refused to accept his lobola.
He was told that he did not qualify to marry their daughter, even after siring a child with her. To them, he was a penniless mukwasha (son-in-law). Frustrated, the guy took to the bottle before deciding to take a drive with his family with a plan to end his misery through a murder suicide.
This story begs us to question the significance of lobola — what it is and what it represents. Should parents decide who should marry their girl child or is she free to choose? Are parents or guardians looking to gain from lobola?
Lobola payment is not only restricted to our culture as Africans but it extends to others as well. They call it dowry, which is defined as the transfer of parental property, gifts or money at the marriage of a daughter. According to Wikipedia, dowry is an ancient custom and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world, mainly in parts of Asia, Northern Africa and the Balkans. When it comes to some families here in Africa or Zimbabwe in particular, there are certain geographical areas which are well-known for their pricey lobola charges. In our culture, when a girl is of age and she is seeing or dating a promising man who intends to marry her, she is supposed to approach her aunts and tell them.
The aunts are expected to take the message to the girl’s father, usually via her uncles (his younger or older brothers). It is considered disrespectful for the girl to directly declare her boyfriend’s intentions to her parents. Therefore, the longer route has to be followed until the father of the girl is told. He is the one who summons his brothers for a meeting or “dare” to hold discussions on the issue, with the main subject being calculation of figures.
In the Shona culture, a list of figures is drawn up — from the least to the highest amount– which is considered as the main act.
Generally, the son-in-law to be pays amounts for things like introductions and “mafukidza dumbu”, a payment that is meant to show respect to the mother of his wife-to-be.
There is also a “rusambo”, which is considered the main act. Traditionally one would not be given his bride before he pays rusambo. The family of the bride can request a cow or goats but nowadays, it is mainly paid in hard cash. Depending with the perceived financial status of the man intending to marry the family’s daughter — amounts ranging from $3000 to $15000 United States Dollars are paid.
Transactions are conducted with the help of a middleman, like lawyers do in company takeovers. This middleman is known as a “munyai” (go between) and he or she is the one who intermediates between the son-in-law and tezvara (father-in-law).
Basically this is a brief background of how “roora” or “lobola” is conducted in our culture. But of late, we have been noticing changes. Modernisation has redefined the principles observed in this practice and it has become more centred on the figures to be paid and the family’s benefits.
Others deem the payment of lobola as the only way one can show that he is willing and capable of taking care of his wife and children. Others have come to believe that their daughter’s marriage should transform them financially. A certain level of greed has captured the true value and significance of the practice.
Some fathers have very high expectations of their daughters — they calculate how much they spent on educating them. It seems like when the girl is well-educated or possess a university degree, one should expect to pay much more. Have we, as a people, drifted away from the intended purpose of lobola? Should parents expect high financial returns from lobola payments? ls it not supposed to be a modest practice of exchange of respect and support for the family which is about to be started?
Has lobola lost its significance? Is the modern approach, which values the amounts involved, also justified?
The aforementioned man lost his life due to frustration. His decision to commit suicide was wrong. It is also very unfortunate that he decided to end the lives of his wife and their innocent child. There are many questions which arise from this issue, but till next week, we end here.
Quote of the week: It is said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and so is love for a man to a woman or a woman to a man.
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