While growing up, I was always fascinated by the idea of lobola negotiations. I looked forward to being Maja Ditlhogo (uncle) and heading the lobola negotiations for my niece or nephew. Because, the idea of uniting two families that are most likely very different is still fascinating.

However, I did not know that lobola, being a bridal price, has to be that expensive. The groom or the groom’s family go all out and rob banks to fulfil these “Thank you” efforts.

Black people have turned this sacred practice into a business transaction. We have commercialised it a lot.

It baffles me.

The reasoning behind the exorbitant prices tags (for a lack of a better phrase) is very unreasonable.

First, it is the parents’ responsibility to raise their child well. I do not think that there is a parent out there who wants to raise a child that is without manners. So, if the fundamental reason for raising a well-mannered daughter is because she is going to be someone’s wife one day, then society’s standards are more messed up than I envisaged.

Second, it is every parent’s responsibility to ensure they afford a good education for their child or children. You enabling your daughter to attend university to become an engineer, doctor, computer scientist, accountant or lawyer, should have nothing to do with the lobola price tag you put on your child.

But today, we take them to school and come back to say; she is a doctor, thus we want R70 000. For what? People want to be “paid back” the money they spent on paying fees for their own daughter, who is their own responsibility as their own child, for giving her an education? How messed up is that? It is so sad that many couples don’t make it to being called husband and wife because of the frivolity of their uncles or negotiators. Some people cannot afford the expensive lobola claims they are given.

We have betrayed our own African tradition.

Third, there will be the downside to the negotiations. In Setswana they say: “O e gapa le namane or dinamane,” meaning, someone wants to marry a woman who has children from a previous relationship.

The argument states they have to pay less for this bride-to-be, because she has a child. Nevertheless, the groom who sent these uncles or negotiators knows about the child/children.

There is no measurement of the guy’s suitability for the woman he is about to marry.

Him being able to afford that R20000 to R100000 or more for lobola does not make him a befitting partner for the woman he wants to marry.

We still continue with the patriarchy practices even in things that involve two grown-up people.

The woman is “punished” for having a child and the man can do as he pleases. We do such injustice to our daughters and nieces, we reduce them to someone’s future husband and don’t see them as individuals. Because if we did, we wouldn’t have this obsession to give crazy price tags for their lobola.

We focus so much on money like it is everything to a marriage. It is needless to say that many families start broke, due to this crazy lobola price tags.

Is lobola still relevant in the world we live in today?

We should remember that the lobola ceremony is about bringing two people, two families and the larger communities together.

I look forward to my first lobola negotiations; the chance to restore the dignity and the pride in the ceremony that our forefathers started many moons ago. I believe that there is power in this spiritual and social practice called lobola. Let’s rethink it, and if that fails, let’s abandon it.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the Founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM). Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @KabeloJay; Facebook: Kabelo Chabalala

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star