According to Zulu custom lobola negotiations are seen as the first stage of a wedding or traditional marriage, but in contemporary South Africa instead of conjuring up images of love and ‘happily ever after’, lobola has become something of a divisive issue, with some people even going so far as to call for its abolishment.
As a ‘hot topic’ a number of fake news sites have reported that the government plans to ban the payment of lobola starting in 2017, supposedly as a result of women’s calls for equality. The same article also claims that men who are unhappy with their wives can demand the lobola payment back from their in-laws, even if they remain married!
Another site offers an online lobola calculator – answer a few simple multiple choice questions and you can work out how much you’re worth as a prospective wife. Robert Matsaneng, the creator of the Lobola Calculator app said that he invented his app because he wanted something in the Andriod Play store that represented the South African culture. “I don’t recommend the app to be used during real negotiations mainly because it serves as entertainment. It can be used as an ice breaker though because it was created purely for fun”, explained Matsaneng when asked if his intention was to replace elders in the traditional lobola negotiations. But regardless of whether people think this age old Zulu tradition has been corrupted or not, it seems it’s definitely here to stay – one aggrieved young woman reported how she was dumped after she offered to pay her own lobola: “The engagement is the thing that turned me off. No man will agree to be given money to pay lobola. I’m sorry but I won’t take her lobola money. I wish her luck and hope she finds someone”, said the now ex-boyfriend of Bobo Ntshong.