Two Government ministers have warned of the negative consequences that excessive lobola charges which are becoming more widespread could have on home and family life.
The Deputy Minister of Community Development and Women’s Affairs, Bishop Joshua Dhube, said in an interview that many people had now
“long lost the true value and meaning of lobola. The result has been and is still a strain and hardship in many homes.”
He warned that women for whom heavy lobola was charged risked the danger of being more abused and less respected than women for whom little lobola had been paid.
The Minister of Justice, Cde Simbi Mubako, in a separate interview said he did not share the argument held by some girls that unless lobola was paid for them, they would feel like prostitutes.
The Ministry of Justice was assessing the opinions of all people concerned before introducing legislation on lobola.
Cde Mubako, who was being questioned on aspects of a speech he made in Murehwa last month regarding lobola, said he was satisfied that abuse of lobola was “fairly widespread”.
The minister said if it was the consensus of the majority of the people to abolish lobola and
“if that were to be the solution and people agreed on this, then we would go ahead and abolish lobola”.
But he said he was satisfied the vast majority of the people did not want lobola abolished.
Asked whether profiteering in lobola should not be treated the same way as commodity overcharging, Cde Mubako said it was “legally difficult”, although one could do so on moral grounds, to equate lobola with commodity pricing.
“In commodity pricing you can set up price controls and say that anybody who charges above the stipulated price can be arrested. But you cannot do it in the case of lobola because very often the boy wants the girl very seriously and he will pay any asked lobola,”
said Cde Mubako.
Bishop Dhube said that while his ministry had no direct responsibility in introducing legislation on lobola or other reforms in the law, he would be making recommendations when debate on legislation governing lobola began.
The contents of the report on the situation of women in Zimbabwe would form the basis for the recommendations which would be made during the debate.
It was a popular view among the majority of women that lobola should not be abolished and the ministry acknowledged, as women did, that the custom of lobola
“has great value to the majority of the people, both men and women. It would therefore be very unwise for the ministry to recommend something contrary to what the people want”, said Bishop Dhube.
However, Cde Mubako said the Legal Age of Majority Act, passed about nine months ago did give the girl the right to get married whether lobola had been paid or not.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
Lobola/Roora/Bride price is a cultural practice among a lot of people in Africa where the family of the boy intending to get married, pays money and beasts to the family of the girl he wants to marry.
Lobola price is determined by the girl’s family, but for a very long time now, studies show that lobola charges are getting steeper every time.
The steep lobola charges are an antithesis of what bride price symbolises: uniting families not commodifying the woman.
The huge sums of money charged by some girls’ families are believed to be the major cause of gender based violence and femicide, as husbands will be violently demonstrating how they paid a lot of money and cattle for them.
Lobola is also believed to be behind the increase in divorces.