Evolution and thought on lobola

Photo sourced from jesuitinstitute.org.za

The principle of lobola (by whatever name it is called in different African languages)has been adhered to and practiced over the years and for generations across various cultures in Africa. However, like with other cultures, the situation today is that the emerging economic factors due largely to the influence of colonialism, have also over the years influenced these principle and practices.

Traditionally lobola was in terms of animals and property but has recently only taken the form of money because of the modern economy. Phillip Iya a Professor of African and Comparative Law at North West University (NWU) argues that the monetary system has now spoilt almost every aspect of the African cultural principle and practices of lobola because of the economic system.

“Modern life does not take into account the values of the African culture. It is a misinterpretation, misdirection of the African culture”, argues Prof  Iya, who refutes the misnomer that lobola is a business transaction or a bride price as considered by many writers and the general society. “Traditionally, lobola is not a business transaction. It is evidence of an appreciation, a way to say “thank you” and the best approach to understanding it to consider that it is really the appreciation of the handing over of the bride’s reproductive system, for perpetuation of the bridegroom’s family”.

While the latest South African statistics on marriage indicate that less people are getting married and there is more divorce than in the past, the question on everyone`s mind is whether  lobola is still relevant today or in the future of South Africa specifically and Africa in general. This is because today most people believe that the payment of lobola aids people`s perception of associating love with monetary value.

“My personal view is that lobola will still be practiced in the future particularly because of what we are doing now as IKS centre”, says Iya who further argues that since the South African Government has introduced the IKS Policy of 2004 which is an official recognition of the importance of Indigenous Knowledge Systems aimed at protecting, promoting and managing  knowledge of African values, this will promote, develop and bring people to understand more about our indigenous knowledge and indigenous values. “The more people begin to understand these values the more they will come to value our culture”, he says. Moreover, the South African Constitution makes a similar provision in sections 30 and 31

Created 13 March 2018

Updated 03 March 2020

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