A Westerner who just arrived in Zimbabwe in 2005 was shocked to discover that brides were for sale in my country. What immediately came to her ‘’ civilized’’ mind was slavery, but have intensions to spend more time in my remote village she was soon to come to realize that Lobola is much more than simply the buying of a wife. It is a mirror of a society in transition.
The Lobola tradition is fraught with contradictions and it is by looking back in time that we get the clearest picture of its purpose. Supposedly long ago a prospective husband would bring a hoe or some animals to the bride’s family and make arrangements with parents, He would then be required to spend an amount of time with her family, working and producing with them, The length being determined by the value of the bride and the amount the young man had bought, This was in effect, a test period for both parties, The bride would prove her fertility, while the groom would demonstrate to the parents that he was a capable provider.
The injection of cash into this system has bought it to the verge of collapse. The chief weakness of money is its ability to exploit individual weakness, In the olden days the entire family benefited from the crops produced by future son-in –law, Money, however can be hoarded by a greedy or drunken father or a member of the family can use it to utter disregard of the woman involved.
Maria’s father died suddenly when she was 14 years and in form 1, Her mother went to live with his elder brother in another village, When Maria was in form 3 her uncle Mandaza wanted her to be married to 75 year old business man good enough to be her grandfather, however Maria’s mother refused to agree and moved her family away, supporting herself by her skills as vegetable vendor.
A year later Maria’s uncle Mandaza kidnapped her and sold her to the75 years old business man for Twelve billion Zimbabwean dollars, Three cattle’s and Three goats, Maria’s uncle needed the cash for fertiliser and to buy Christmas clothe for her three wives.
After the forced marriage succeeded Maria was to live with his husband’s other five wives while the old man spent most of his time in cities Bulawayo/ Gaborone. It was a completely loveless match and her feelings were of no consequence to anyone but her mother and her. Her mother refused to approve the marriage but had no mean of getting money back to the old man since Mandaza had already blown up every cent. Luckily, the businessman’s five wives protested against their husband and the girl’s uncle, In their power they raised money and hired a private tutor for Maria and the following year she completed her ‘’O’’ Levels obtaining 7B’s and a C
Under the old pre-cash days, this sort of thing could not have happened, As it is now parents in rural Africa are hearing the tinkle of cash registers and girls in most villages now cost unheard sums of money – up to three thousand United States dollars, Education has now helped to grade a girl’s worth for instance grade 7 and below US$ 1000 – “O” levels but no passes US$ 2000 and so forth, gone are most of the tests of love and worthiness, but not entirely.
In early 2008 I attended the wedding of Maria getting married to Sam (25), on their big day Sam a lawyer by profession praised Maria for braveness to free herself from the forced marriage, and Sam explained why girls in the village need to learn from Maria’s experience. Sam also spoke about his three year struggle to raise the Lobola and then the cash for the wedding was finally over. Now it was time for joy and celebration for Maria and her mom but for her uncle who sold to the businessman it was time to regret and be ashamed of his actions.
At best Lobola is the test of real love and commitment, but now our days it had been turned in the worst kind of exploitation, leaving a girl or woman in fear of their lives and subject to a kind of slavery that should not be tolerated in socialist society!!!!
Please note that this is true life story hundreds of girls are trapped into relationships with man good enough to be their grandfather)” I SAY NO TO LOBOLA” My biggest wish is that African governments make the practise illegal!!!