Zimbabwean families in UK facing lobola nightmare

Zimbabwean families in UK facing lobola nightmare
Published: 02 February 2018 (1008 Views)
Throughout Africa a marriage could not take place without some form of gift (or "payment") of animals, food or other material goods to the parents and family of the bride. Today people speak of this as paying "dowry".

Technically this is not dowry, but 'bride-price', 'bride-gift', 'bride-worth' and the most commonly used word is lobola.  According to the English usage 'dowry' is the gift of money, goods or both, offered by the bride or bride's family towards establishment of her household, whereas a bride-price is a marriage payment made by a prospective husband or more often, by his family to the family of the bride.

It is to be remarked that the bride-price does not mean a business deal, because there is no purchasing or trade involved, but a simple exchange of gifts.

It is a token of gratitude on the part of the bridegroom's people to those of the bride for their care over her and for allowing her to become his wife.

Lobola is a demonstration of how much the girl is valued by both sides. It denotes respectability, worthiness and appreciation.  As a valued person at marriage, she is not stolen but given away under mutual agreement between the two families. The gift elevates the value attached to her both as a person and as a wife.

At her home, the marriage gift replaces her or it can be taken as an economic compensation, reminding the family that she will leave or she has left and yet she is not dead. It is verification in concrete terms that families have agreed to the marriage of the son and daughter.  Lobola is a sign of approval of marriage by the families. Traditionally, if lobola was not paid, it showed that the family did not approve of the marriage.
Being abroad has changed this mind set. Lobola is viewed as a way of human selling.  

Having to let your child go in the UK is a nightmare.  One family came up with their bride price list. The family of the son in law who were white did not inderstand the tradition. They were hearing none of it so they went to the police and reported  human slavery saying they are selling their daughter as a slave to them. They did not want to be part of the deal.  The marriage was over. Few days later the girl eloped with guy. No penny was paid to the family.  

Another family were shocked when the som in law said. Can i pay by credit card. One would find it strange but maybe with tje cash problem back home people are paying by echo cash.

Having a discussion with my daughters was depressing.   They all feel Lobola is an old tradition which is meant to undermine girls and make them submit before before their husbands.  This thinking is obnoxious to us the parents.  It beats hard below the belt.
My other daughter is comfortable staying with a man who had not paid a penny. She even refers the man as my Mukuwasha. Retorted Mr Muhwati of Wales.

Lobola has lost meaning so has marriage. Men are having free rides. Being abroad Lobola has become a casualty.     

Lobola starts the process of marriage. Lobola is an expression of honour to the parents but also an undertaking of responsibility to the spouse. But our children and the prospective husbands finds Lobola as an evil practice which is meant to lower their dignity.  

Paying lobola shows commitment on the part of the bridegroom and it is a serious demonstration of the love of the man for the woman – love not just in words but also in deeds.

This is not the way it is viewed now.
We have put our children in a culture were people will proudly tell you. This is my third marriage. This is my tenth marriage.  At a family function all the ex husbands meet at the family house. This is repulsive to an African mind but normal to our hosts.
This is the society our children are growing into. 

Some families just let their children wed without a penny paid. It was those who had their daughters married sometime back who can talk about lobola.

A family in Leicester had all girl children taken into social services because they were said to have sold their eldest daughter to a Scottish family.  
Lobola is a public acknowledgement that the marriage is genuine. Because of lobola, the husband and wife cannot easily separate and divorce. There must always be discussion with the family members before marital separation. In the olden days, this made marriage more binding. But in diaspora marriages are for the weekend and people are surprised that you have one wife for Thirty years.
Marriages now lasts Few hours.  How can it have a long effect without a sign of commitment
Money has replaced cattle and other gifts for dowry. In many communities, the more the woman is educated, the more the prospective husband is expected to pay. But in England very lucky families get the lobola paid.   Let alone having the children married.

The element of greed has distorted the whole meaning of lobola. Because of the heavy expenses entered into in paying lobola and preparing for the wedding, many couples start poor with heavy debts, which puts strain on the marriage right at the beginning.    But in diaspora many (young) people are deciding to cohabit which is both unAfrican and unbiblical.

Christian parents, who otherwise do not believe in expensive bride-price or no lobola at all, are put under tremendous pressure by unbelieving relatives. This is more so if the Christian parents cannot stand their ground concerning their faith. Lately some parents use a portion of the lobola to contribute to wedding preparations and some give back to the couple for their needs. By its nature, lobola was so designed that no man, not matter how poor, should remain unmarried because of the importance Africans attached to the marital institution.  

The concept of lobola has been surely misunderstood in the UK.  Very few Zimbabweans are lucky to have their children married. These are the pains of bringing up our children in strange lands.

Many a times your children refer to people in Zimbabwe as your people. They have removed themselves from the cultures people and life of Zimbabwe. Expecting a bride price from our children abroad  is like hoping that it will snow in Harare.  It might snow but the chances are really not there.

Lobola should not be a stumbling block to a couple wanting to get married, but the parents' blessing should be sought before the marriage (there may be some exceptions, but each case is handled differently and on its own merits). Said Pastor David of A London based African church.
For the Zimbabwean parents in the UK. it is cry the beloved children.


- Dr Masimba Mavaza


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