Lobola is a fundamental custom practised under customary law marriage in many African countries, mostly Southern African countries. It is the payment of the bride price by the groom’s family to the bride’s family which traditionally is paid with a certain number of cows. Nowadays, families of the bride accept lobola payment in the form of cash or other gifts.
With lobola being made very expensive by the family of the bride in some cases; making it difficult for the prospective groom to pay, there has been a call for lobola to be abolished. However, in the midst of the raging online debate regarding the age-old tradition, many still believe that lobola has been misunderstood in the modern era and that the custom has come to stay.
The Meaning of Lobola
Lobola involves the family of the groom paying the family of the bride in cash or cows, for a marriage process to be initiated between their son and daughter. That’s why it’s often referred to as bride price or bridewealth. On some occasions, the bride’s family can request a cash equivalent of the number of cows. Oftentimes, lobola is paid in monthly installments, though some cultures demand that it must be paid in full.
This is to show that the groom is capable of taking care of the financial needs of his family. Before the day of the lobola celebration, the groom’s family will first write a letter to the bride’s family, expressing their intention to marry their daughter. This is followed by negotiations, payment of the bride price, and then the celebration, which in some cultures, is celebrated for two to three days. The giving of lobola is agreed upon by the families of the bride and groom.
In South Africa, lobola is a widespread custom commonly practised by the Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Northern and Southern Ndebele, and Silozi tribes. Lobola is considered one of the essential requirements of customary law marriage. Although it is not clearly stated as one of the basic three requirements of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998, it is believed to be under the requirement that a customary marriage must be entered into or negotiated in accordance with customary law or practices.
However, in recent times, there has been an increasing number of marriages taking place without the payment of lobola as some people believe that the custom is not clearly stated as part of the customary marriage requirements.
The Origin of Lobola
Under African customary law, it is necessary for intending couple to follow certain traditions before they can get married and this includes payment of lobola. Lobola, an age-old tradition where the prospective groom, in respect of the custom, pays the family of the prospective bride in cattle for her hand in marriage, has been ongoing since 300 BC. It was bourne out of an agricultural and cattle-based economy whereby a family’s wealth status was measured by how many cattle they owned.
As a result, a young man who wished to get married then was required to pay the bride price by giving the bride’s family gifts of livestock. In the olden days, lobola was considered a token of honor to a woman who was chosen to build the home as the man can’t build the home alone. Hence, there was no set price or amount of cows attached to it at the time. However, in 1859, Theophilus Shepstone, a British South African statesman decided to set the price or amount of cows for lobola.
He reportedly stated that eleven cows should be given for an average woman, then 15 cows for the daughter of a chief, and 30 cows for a king’s daughter. Additionally, Shepstone stated that each cow should cost £5. Even though his decision goes against the African proverb that says “umuntu akathengwa” (a person is not for sale), many people have held on to it. And over the years, the bride price, which was traditionally paid with cattle, has increased to exorbitant amounts.
Nowadays, it is a norm for some families to request at least R60,000 from the groom for lobola. Considering the present economic state of the country, the process of marriage has become too expensive for many couples to go through, and thus, they opt to co-habit. On the contrary, the tradition of lobola was meant to be a token of honor to the bride. As such, it had no set price or amount of cows attached to it in the past.
What’s The Importance of Lobola?
The lobola custom is considered a ritual that helps to bring the families of the bride and groom together as one close-knit family. As marriage is more than a union between two individuals, the primary purpose of lobola is to build strong ties between the respective families, developing mutual respect amongst them.
The custom is also aimed at proving to the families the financial capabilities of the future husband. It shows that he is capable of supporting his wife financially and how much he values her as well. Thus, demonstrating his love and level of commitment. It is further considered a token of thanks from the groom in appreciation to the bride’s family for taking proper care of her and equally, for allowing their daughter to become his wife.
Payment of lobola additionally marks worthiness, respectability, and appreciation on the part of the lady as the gift raises the value attached to her both as a person and as a wife. Furthermore, lobola is a public declaration that the marriage is genuine. It’s also a sign of approval of marriage by both families, showing that the parents of the couple have agreed to the marriage of their son and daughter. Traditionally, non-payment of lobola signifies that the families did not approve of the marriage.
Processes Involved in Lobola Negotiations
Lobola negotiations, also known as ilobola, happen between the families of the prospective groom and prospective bride. To reach an agreement on the lobola payment which could take months, negotiations must be done and are different in each culture. The procedures involved are:
STEP 1: The family of the groom starts the negotiation by sending a negotiation letter to the family of the bride, and scheduling a negotiation meeting.
STEP 2: If it’s accepted, then the representatives of the groom will meet with the representatives of the bride to negotiate the terms and conditions of the lobola such as:
- What must be given as lobola; whether cattle or money
- How the lobola should be given; whether in full or in installments
- When the lobola must be given
STEP 3: A bottle of hot drink such as Brandy or local beer is usually presented during the negotiation process. This is to create a more relaxed atmosphere and equally calm tensions.
STEP 4: In certain cultures, the groom’s representatives are required to pay cash referred to as “open your mouth” to the bride’s family to formally open the discussion about marriage.
STEP 5: The groom’s family will present him to the family of the bride as a suitable husband and if he is accepted as a suitor, both families will then finalize the lobola amount, including the value for one cow.
STEP 6: The groom is informed of the outcome of the negotiation and he will either accept the set lobola price or ask his representatives to negotiate for a lower price.
STEP 7: Once the lobola price is agreed on, the payment is made and a hand-over ceremony will proceed.
Who May Negotiate Lobola?
The head of the family, the uncles, and older brothers are deemed capable of negotiating the lobola. Traditionally, only male figures can take up such roles. The groom and females are not allowed to be present during the negotiations. However, there are exceptions where a female can be the head of a family when there is no male head of the family. In such a case, the female is permitted to participate in the lobola negotiations.
Lobola Negotiations Letter
To initiate the lobola process a letter is written by the groom’s family to the house of the bride. In ancient times, the lobola letter was usually sent by mail. But now, a trusted relative of the groom goes to the bride’s house to deliver the letter. In the letter, it will be stated that the groom’s family would like to meet with the family of the bride about joining the two families together in marriage.
When writing the letter, the content must, by all means, show respect and sincerity. Below is an example of how the letter would read:
Acceptable Format For Lobola Negotiations Letter
Dear [bride’s surname] family,
We the [groom’s surname] family are writing this letter with great submission. We hope it finds you well and would like to humbly ask for its acceptance.
Our son, [groom’s full name] saw a beautiful riped orange in your yard and we would be grateful if both families can schedule a date for us to send out callers to come to join the families in marriage. The [groom’s full name] family will be very happy to come on the [dd] of [Month] but, please let us know which date best suits your family members.
Yours Faithfully,[Groom’s full name] family
What is Lobola Agreement Letter?
After the lobola negotiations have been successfully concluded, the lobola agreement letter can be documented to avoid future disputes. To help with the process, many individuals have drafted different patterns for the lobola agreement letter which are being sold in Shoprite and some retail stores in the country for a range of R90 to R300.
A lobola agreement letter drafted by Legal Wise has sections such as signatories, lobola negotiations, lobola amount and payment, and refund of lobola. These are to be filled with important details about the lobola process, including the full names of the bride and groom, as well as the names of the witnesses alongside their signatures. The information to be documented in a lobola agreement letter are as follows:
- Full name of the bride
- Full name of the groom
- Names of the bride’s family representatives
- Names of the groom’s family representatives
- Lobola negotiation terms and conditions
- Lobola amount and payment terms and conditions and bank details
- Terms on which the lobola can be refunded
- General agreement
- Signatures and full names of the family representatives of the bride including witnesses
- Signatures and full names of the family representatives of the groom including witnesses
What to Cook For Lobola Negotiations
Depending on the culture, traditional foods are usually served during lobola negotiations. For instance, in the Zulu lobola negotiations, the groom’s family will come with lots of booze in the form of sorghum beer. Afterward, traditional Zulu foods will be served to the people gracing the occasion.
Lobola Procedures in Different South African Cultures
In diverse cultures in South Africa, the process of lobola celebrations differ, even though it has the same purpose—building strong ties between two families. Traditionally, there are a lot of steps to the marriage process and it is being carried out differently by each culture. For instance, in the Zulu and Xhosa cultures, the generally accepted number of cows required is a minimum of 10 cows.
However, other cultures with varying customs and religions require a differing number of cows. That said, here are the lobola processes in some widely known South African tribes.
Zulu Lobola Process
A typical lobola payment in Zulu includes 10 cows plus one cow for the bride’s mother, making it a total of 11 cows. Although the cows can be exchanged for cash, there is no fixed monetary rate for a cow. This provides scope for a higher rate for the cattle to be negotiated. Zulu lobola process is in stages and they are as follows:
The lobola negotiations normally take place at the family house of the bride. So when the representatives of the groom arrive at the bride’s family home, they will stand at the entrance or outside the gate and introduce themselves. The introduction is done by shouting their clan names aloud. Then the bride’s family will pretend not to hear the shouting until when they think that the representatives have shouted enough, a young boy will be sent to attend to them.
The groom’s family will now give some money for them to be allowed into the house and shown where to sit. Afterward, they will give more money for calling the father of the bride for negotiations as they will be told that he is up a tree and needs money to force him down. This is followed by payment of imvulamlomo to the bride’s family which allows the groom’s representatives to initiate the negotiation.
The groom is not allowed to be present in Zulu tradition. Thus, he would choose a representative referred to as idombo to represent his interests. The bride’s family spokesperson will explain to the idombo what is required for the lobola. If the requirements are high, the women will go outside to speak to the mother of the bride, trying to get her to convince her husband to agree to a more reasonable price.
Also, the bride’s mother is not allowed in the negotiation room and if she mistakenly enters the room, a penalty will be paid. The negotiation starts at 10 cows and then can increase or be reduced, depending on factors such as the bride having children out of wedlock. Once the bride price has been agreed on, both families will start preparing for the wedding celebration but this is dependent on the outcome of the bride’s assessment by the groom’s family.
Bride’s Assessment / Payment of Lobola
Following the conclusion of the lobola negotiations, the bride is required to stay with the family of the groom for one month for assessment. During this period, they can now determine whether she will make a good wife for their son. While at the groom’s home, the bride is not allowed to see her father-in-law face to face. As a result, she must hide whenever he enters the house.
Also, the makoti must wake up very early before her in-laws to do house chores. At the end of the assessment period, the bride will be sent home to her people and her mother-in-law will give her a folded blanket tied with a rope to present to her mother. When the blanket is unfolded and there is a hole in it, that means that bride has passed the assessment.
Subsequently, the family of the groom will come and make the lobola payment. This is followed by wedding preparations.
Xhosa Lobola Process
The lobola ceremony is highly valued in Xhosa culture such that Nelson Mandela, who was a prince from the Xhosa tribe, reportedly paid for the lobola of his wife, Graça Machel with 60 cows. A typical Xhosa lobola process starts with Ukuthwala (choosing the bride), followed by payment of the bride price.
Ukuthwala (Choosing the Bride)
Ukuthwala in Xhosa culture is known as legal bridal abduction. Although at present, the custom is associated with the kidnapping of young girls and forcing them into marriage, it has been practised for several decades. It involves the prospective groom choosing a lady he wishes to marry. He will then get his family informed and they will visit the bride’s family to discuss their intentions.
After both families reach an agreement, the groom’s family will ask the bride to spend a night in their home. This traditional method will signify the intention of the family to marry the lady, who will then return to her people the next morning. This marks the beginning of the betrothal process.
Payment of Lobola
After lobola negotiations, the family of the groom will pay the bride’s family in order to obtain the right to marry their daughter. Other traditional ceremonies will subsequently take place during which there will be an exchange of gifts between both families. Animals are also slaughtered on the day of the traditional celebration as a sacrifice to their ancestors. This is to introduce the bride to the ancestors and equally, invite them to bless the union.
Swati Lobola Process
Unlike other cultures, the Swati lobola ceremony takes place in three days. The event is usually colorful as it is characterized by feasting, songs, and dance. After the lobola agreement is finalized, the lobola ceremony will be held at the home of the bride for three days, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.
Lobola Ceremony: Day 1
On the first day, the groom (uMyeni) with his siblings, close friends, and extended family members will arrive at the bride’s home. Upon arrival, the groom’s elected lobola negotiator (Gozolo) will announce their arrival by shouting “Siyalobola Gogo”, meaning “we are here to give cows to the family of the bride.” The announcement is also to alert the ancestors of both families of their arrival and the three days ceremony.
Following the announcement, Gozolo will further announce the number of cattle they brought, describing the physical appearance of each of them. He will specifically make mention of two cows; “Insulamnyembeti” and “Lugege.” These cows are very vital to the Swati lobola ceremony such that the ceremony can’t proceed without them. While Insulamnyembeti is for the bride’s mother and can be kept for long, Lugege is a gift to the women in the bride’s family and is feasted upon during the ceremony.
The bride’s family will now welcome the groom and his entourage, generally known as “Bayeni.” They will present the groom and Gozolo with blankets which they will use to cover themselves throughout the ceremony. The groom covering his shoulders with a blanket is considered by Swati people as a sign of respect to his in-laws. A young unmarried woman from the groom’s family referred to as “Intfombiyemtwalo” will lead the Bayeni into the bride’s home.
She is also the one required to carry the groom’s bedding for the weekend, including a blanket wrapped in a grass mat and a pillow.
Lobola Ceremony: Day 2
A serious part of the ceremony is kicked off on Saturday morning. It involves both families exchanging pleasantries and engaging in talks. They will discuss the number of cows present and their descriptions will be repeated to the family of the bride. The two families will proceed to the cattle kraal to have a look at the cows. There, the groom’s family will hand them over to the brides’ family, who will then point out the cow to be slaughtered and feast on during the ceremony.
The cow is referred to as “Inhlabisabayeni.” The families will later get to socialize by dancing and singing in the backyard of the bride’s home. This will go on for most of the afternoon until the time comes for feasting on the Inhlabisabayeni and Lugege.
Lobola Ceremony: Day 3
The main feature of the final day of the lobola ceremony in Swati culture is “kungcingciswa kwenyongo”, which is the smearing of cow bile on the groom and bride. On this final day, the bile of Lugege is used by the bride to smear on the groom and he would also repeat the same on the bride. The smearing of cow bile signifies the sealing of the union. Once it is concluded, the family of the groom can take their leave.
Later on, both families will prepare for another traditional ceremony that follows lobola known as Umtsimba. It lasts for three days, from Friday to Sunday, and involves the presentation of gifts to the groom and his extended family by the family of the bride.
What is The Significance of the Handover Ceremony During The Lobola Celebration?
A vital aspect of lobola is creating a family link. Both families can build strong relations by maintaining a very good familial relationship. During the handover ceremony, the bond is further strengthened by the spirit of sharing and connecting. On the day of the handover, the family of the bride will take her to the groom’s house. She will be incorporated into the groom’s family with song and dance, followed by an exchange of gifts such as utensils, cutlery, and blankets.
In the midst of the celebration, animals are slaughtered as sacrifices to the ancestors, inviting them to bless the union. The celebration is usually graced by very large crowds as there are no formal invitations to the event and whoever wishes to, can be part of the celebrations.
How is Lobola Calculated?
Though in many cultures, it is a pre-requisite for the groom to pay lobola with 11 cows before the marriage process can be initiated, there are certain factors that can actually increase or decrease the number of cows to be given. They include:
- The educational qualifications of the bride
- Her family background
- If she is still a virgin
- If she has a child out of wedlock
- Her age
- Her employment status
It’s noteworthy that the groom tends to pay more or bring more cows if the prospective bride is still a virgin and has a sound educational background coupled with a good-paying job. On the other hand, if the future wife has a child out of wedlock, then the number of cows to be given will be reduced. But if the groom is the father of the child, he will be charged for having a child out of wedlock.
In recent years, an application called Lobola Calculator has been made use of by young men and women intending to get married. They use it to determine how much to expect in lobola. The app also gives the averages in diverse provinces in South Africa. For example, it estimates an average of 12 cows or R82,500 for Gauteng province. To calculate lobola, the Lobola Calculator would ask the following:
- Waist size
- Educational qualifications
- If you are employed
- If you are previously married or have children
- To rank your level of attractiveness on a scale of “not hot all” to “really hot”
The app developer, Robert Matsaneng however has stated that he developed the app to have a product that represents South African culture on the app store and not to replace the role of the elders in calculating lobola. Though he had no idea what an average lobola price is, he provided the figures on the app with information gotten from family and friends’ lobola negotiations. He further cited that the app is great for a laugh with friends and equally great for getting a ballpark figure.
A Look at The Criticisms Surrounding Lobola
In the last few years, there have been incessant discussions about the necessity of paying lobola. The issue has been raging online for some time now as the centuries-old tradition has garnered some criticisms from people who believe that it has turned into a money-making scheme and thus, should be abolished.
Some others cite it as a cause of gender-based violence, stating that after most men are pressured into getting loans to pay for lobola, they normally turn out to be toxic and abusive. Here’s a look at the criticisms.
DJ Prince Kaybee’s Social Media Post About Lobola
Why do people pay Lobola?
— K A B I L L I O N (@PrinceKaybee_SA) December 8, 2021
In December 2021, DJ Prince Kaybee shared some posts on Twitter, lashing out at the practice of lobola. He stated that he doesn’t see the need for it, claiming that the age-old tradition pressurizes men into taking loans to pay the bride price which eventually subjects the family to poverty. He sees it as a waste of time and money and that the pressure from it causes some men to take their own lives when the marriage collapses, especially if they took loans to pay for lobola.
So I read somewhere that some men take loans to pay Lobola, live trying to pay back the loan while paying for everything in the house then get divorced losing everything but debts. 35% of these men commit suicide.
— K A B I L L I O N (@PrinceKaybee_SA) December 8, 2021
With the DJ seeing no need for lobola, he went on to say that he won’t be accepting lobola for his daughter. Of course, his tweets stirred up mixed reactions from his fans. While some took a stance with him to question the purpose of lobola, others maintained that lobola is an essential practice required for a customary marriage. They further stated that the meaning and origin of lobola must have been lost on the music star.
There’s a lot of women married by rich men but they are not taken care of, you showing me how much you have doesn’t mean anything, secondly I wouldn’t want Lobola for my daughter, I don’t see the need for it. https://t.co/175tDmshEX
— K A B I L L I O N (@PrinceKaybee_SA) December 8, 2021
Lobola, a Major Contributor to GBV?
With scores of women suffering physical abuse at the hands of their husbands who rue the day they paid their lobola, the practice of paying lobola has been challenged by some women who claim that the custom reduces them to mere assets that are subject to abuse. They believe that lobola puts up women for sale and contends that their right to dignity, equality, and non-discrimination are at stake.
Consequently, the women have moved on to suggest that lobola should be paid to both parents on the grounds of gender equality. That this will help to stop reducing women to an object or property with a price tag. They further cited that with some greedy parents abusing the practice for unjustified enrichment, some men beat up their wives and claim that they paid for them. Whereas some others dictate how their wives should live their lives because their parents charged them an exorbitant amount of money which gave them the right to do so.
Amid the ongoing debate concerning lobola, several people still believe that lobola is extremely important and has come to stay. That it is an essential part of customary law which is considered a token of appreciation to the bride. Also, that lobola creates strong bonds between the families of the bride and the groom.
Makoti Lobola Attire: Selecting The Best Lobola Outfit for the Day
With lobola negotiations and agreement finally done, the bride needs to get her makoti dress ready for the traditional celebrations. These outfits are meant to showcase the African cultural heritage and equally add color and vibe to the event. That said, here are fabulous makoti lobola attire to choose from.
1. Short Makoti A-Line Gown With Mogagolwane Covering
A newly married woman is referred to as “makoti” in several South African cultures. The makotis are often identified by their outfit as they usually cover their shoulders with mogalgolwane, a checkered small blanket during traditional celebrations. Here, the makoti is wearing a short A-line gown made with shweshwe print. She perfected the outfit by rocking a matching headscarf made of the same shweshwe print.
2. Tswana Inspired Mermaid Gown
This elegant and classic Tswana-inspired mermaid gown can make any makoti stand out on her special day. The lovely dress is made from a combination of shweshwe print, white lace material, and net fabrics. While the arms and shoulders are made of nude color net material, the mermaid design was made with white net fabric. The fitted gown has a V-neckline and can be worn with white high heel shoes.
3. Shweshwe x Royal Blue Makoti Ball Gown
Here is an outfit that not only portrays African cultural heritage to the world but sensationally showcases a makoti’s fashion sense. The bride’s ball gown features a combination of shweshwe print and plain royal blue material at the upper part, which further has an open chest design with off-shoulder arms. Then from the waist level to the toe-tip is completely made with plain material.
4. Plain Shirt and Makoti Flare Skirt
For makotis that would love to look simple and nice for the lobola celebration, this outfit is a great choice. The lady here is wearing a long sleeve carton color plain shirt with a shweshwe print flare skirt. She then complimented her outfit with a mogagolwane blanket and good-looking flat shoes.
Lobola Attire For Couples
It’s the wish of every couple to look glamorous on their special day, turning the heads of the guests. With that in mind, we have come up with elegant couple outfits for lobola celebrations. Check them out below!
1. Swati Inspired Gown (Female) Swati Inspired White Shirt and Jeans Trousers (Male)
Here the lovely couple’s lobola outfit is made with a blue Swati Emahiya print. The groom’s outfit looks simple and stylish as he is rocking a Swati print-inspired white shirt and jeans trousers. The bride, on the other hand, is wearing a short mermaid gown made from a combination of plain blue material and blue Swati Emahiya print. She further covered herself with a mogagolwane.
2. Shweshwe Inspired Mermaid Gown (Female) Shweshwe Inspired Shirt and Trousers (Male)
Looking for a colorful and classy outfit to spice up your day, then this lobola outfit would be an excellent option. While the groom is rocking a shweshwe-inspired shirt with plain green trousers, the bride’s gown is a sleeveless mermaid gown made from a combination of shweshwe material and plain green fabric.
3. Shweshwe Ball Gown With Overlays (Female) Shweshwe Inspired Shirt and Trousers (Male)
This is another colorful and beautiful attire that couples can rock on the day of their lobola ceremony. The makoti is wearing a long gown with overlays. The upper part of the dress is fitted and features a combination of a floral pattern, yellow net material, and plain yellow material. The groom, on the other hand, is wearing a shweshwe-inspired white shirt and plain white trousers.
4. Tswana Print Skirt and Blouse (Female) Royal Blue Kaftan Top With Black Trousers (Male)
Couples that love wearing twinning outfits can showcase their rich cultural inheritance with this gorgeous lobola attire. While the groom is looking simple on his kaftan-styled royal blue top with black trousers, the makoti’s lobola attire is very stylish. She is wearing a skirt and blouse made with shweshwe fabric and blue net material. She then perfected her dressing style by covering her shoulders with a white wool blanket.
What Happens After Lobola Negotiations?
After the lobola negotiations are concluded and the agreement documented, the lobola will either be paid in full or in monthly installments, depending on the agreement. It is immediately followed by a celebration whereby the groom fulfills a list of items to be gifted to the bride’s family and hence becomes part of the bride’s family. The items include:
- Doeks or headscarves
- Beer pots
- Walking sticks
- Grass mats
- Three-legged pots
The couple may subsequently decide to go on with the traditional wedding celebration, followed by a civil marriage. Couples are usually advised to register their marriage with the Home Affairs after concluding the customary marriage for them to have proof of their union. For a customary marriage to be concluded it must meet three basic requirements, namely:
- Both parties must be over the age of 18 years
- The two must agree to marry each other under customary law
- The marriage must be entered into or negotiated in accordance with customary law or practices
What is Lobola Money Used For?
The lobola payment, which in most cases, is accepted by the bride’s family in cash, is used to fund the wedding celebration. Also, the money is used to buy items like a new bed and cutleries, which will help the couple to easily start their own household. To create a friendship between the two families, the money is additionally used by the bride to buy gifts that will be given to her in-laws on the day of the handover ceremony.
This helps to counter the notion that lobola is to buy the woman or to compensate the bride’s parents. With the lobola money being used to fund the wedding, the bride’s family usually finds it hard to refund the payment when being demanded by the groom after separation. Presently, the Recognition of Customary Marriage Act 120 of 1998 (RCMA) is yet to state whether lobola can be refunded or not, just as it is silent on whether it must be paid in the first place.
Is Breaking Up After Lobola Possible?
Lobola is a process of getting married under customary law and not marriage itself. As a result, couples can break up after lobola has been paid but it’s still under debate whether the lobola payment is meant to be refunded after the relationship collapsed. There are also situations whereby partners demand a share of properties with only lobola being paid and the marriage not registered at the Department of Home Affairs for it to be recognized under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.
In this case, the legality of the marriage will be disputed as the only proof to show that the union existed is the lobola letter, which is not enough to prove that a customary marriage existed. Thus, the court will have to evaluate the case on its own merit. It will be guided by the practices of that particular jurisdiction, as well as the prevailing customs. Not registering a marriage with home affairs doesn’t necessarily mean that it is invalid, but it makes it harder to prove after a break-up.
You are NOT married if only lobola was paid!
— Tebello, your Sister in Law 👩🏽⚖️⚖️ (@bellz_motshwane) March 30, 2021
As the lobola agreement underpins the customary marriage, it is witnessed by many elders in both families in the olden days. Hence, the elders are needed to deliberate on the marriage in the case of any crisis that might lead to the separation of the couple. This made it hard for couples to break up after paying the lobola during such time as the public declaration of the marriage made it more binding.
Must The Lobola Be Returned If The Couple Break Up?
South Africa is a multi-cultural and diverse country with each culture having its own customs and traditions. Hence, some principles apply in terms of lobola refund if the couple gets separated. They are listed below:
- Lobola will not be refunded if the man is responsible for the separation
- Lobola has to be refunded if the woman is responsible for the separation
- An agreement can be reached between the two families in respect of the refund of the lobola when the man and the woman are responsible for the break-up or the separation is mutual