The Great Lobola Debate

'Lobola' by Bonnie Ntshalintshali
‘Lobola’ by Bonnie Ntshalintshali

A week or two back SAFM hosted a series of discussions on the topic of lobola. The two guests on the show represented opposite ends of the spectrum – on the one side a young male graduate was calling for the abolition of the lobola system, and on the other a more mature female educationalist was emphasising the importance that lobola plays in African culture. The graduate argued that lobola places obstacles in the way of young people getting married, and encourages a culture of ‘hook ups’. He said that when young people finished studying they invariably had student loans to repay, and lobola just adds to that financial burden. He also believed that some men hold lobola over their wives’ heads, believing that the money they paid to their wife’s family entitled them to assert their authority when it came to things like sex and decision making in the family.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on your stance) most of the people who called into the show were on the side of the educationalist, arguing that lobola forms a very important part of their identity as Africans. Towards the end of the show the young graduate, although not convinced of lobola in its current form, was open to the idea of some sort of dowry, but wanted people to consider an updated system that took contemporary issues like gender equality and financial constraints into account.

So what are our readers’ thoughts on the payment of lobola in culture? Are you for or against it, and if so why? We would love to hear your thoughts on this hot issue!

Image courtesy of the Tatham Art Gallery.

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