5 Really Bizarre South African Cultural Practices That Are Still In Place


South African society is highly multicultural and many activities are rooted deeply in traditions. Though most of the cultural activities practiced in South Africa are generally acceptable, some are really bizarre.
Here are 5 bizarre South African cultural practices you will see when you visit the country:

5 Weird South African Cultural Practices

Marrying Many Wives For Leaders:

The status of a man in Kwa-Zulu is determined by the number of cattle, goats and wives he has. Leaders are particularly allowed to have more wives because of their status. While most of the South African community is fast getting westernized especially because of high levels of education, most traditional men in Kwa-Zulu believe in this tradition and marry many wives. Chiefs and other people in positions of leadership have as much as 10 wives which is an indication of their social status in the community. The marriage ceremony is even more bizarre. The girl being married is required to wear a lot of colored beads in her skirt and head so that everybody can know that she is already married. The man is also required to escort the girl in full traditional clothing and inspect the house she will be staying in to make sure that there is no animal such as snake that can harm the new bride. This South African cultural practice is not just practiced in Kwa-Zulu, but also in other parts of the country.

zuma and wives

Forced circumcision in controlling boys’ deviant behavior:

While circumcision (ukwalusa) in Khosa community is one of the many acceptable South African cultural practices , its application as a deterrent for boys deviant behaviors and the way it is done remains  truly bizarre. When boys become deviant and their parents cannot easily control them, they are subjected to circumcision by force. Though the ritual is not scientifically proven, it is believed to make the boys sober up and become responsible.

The deviant boy is caught and restrained in the village by Kraal men who take him to the surgeon. He is then restrained the entire night because circumcision is done at sunrise.  The operation is carried out using a sharp blade and the boy must not cry from pain. The cut portion is then thrown on the ground and the boy has to bury it in an ant heap which will eat it up.

Use of Copper Rings Around the Neck:

After an Ndebele wife is married and taken to the man’s home, she is expected to look as spectacular as possible. This is done in two ways. First, the Ndebele wife wears copper rings around the neck, arms and legs. The rings are provided by the husband and believed to posses a lot of ritual power. Because they are expected to wear the rings throughout their lives, neck bones get malformed and become very painful for most of them. Many women end up in hospitals to have them removed because of excessive pain.

Use of Cattle to Pay for the Bride (labola):

Many people from the Zulu community despite having migrated to the urban suburbs still practice this custom. They believe that cattle is the best way to get compensation for the daughter they are giving (losing) in marriage. The man marrying a lady is expected to physically drive a heard of cattle to the lady’s home in a celebration. However, the number varies depending on the lady being married. A daughter of a prominent chief could attract as much as 20 heads of cattle while the number goes as low as 5 for other girls. Even Zulu men in the urban areas go to the countryside to take cattle to ladies homes in order to be allowed to take their brides.

Special Reference to Campfire:

Campfires lit to celebrate visitors are considered to hold a lot of significance and bonding. The people gathering around a specific fire are believed to have special bonding and their words are not to be heard by others in a different fire even if they are next to each other. The visitor is therefore expected to greet all the people in the campfire and keep repeating the same greetings for every group even when the fires are next to each other. Some community believes that talking to a person from a different campfire is impolite.

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