Misunderstanding of custom of lobola leading to cases of GBV

By Lungile Moyo- @luequeen, and Loveness Nyathi- @lovie1988

Lobola as a traditional custom is recognised and practiced by many African cultures and even other ethnicities beyond the African continent. However over the years, with a rise on cases of domestoc violence some have blames the practice of lobola as the reason behind some male partners treating their wives or partners as commodities. 

Amakhosikazi Media reporters engaged with activists, feminist, religious leaders and the general public to find out how lobola is understood and or misunderstood and has hence led to cases of gender based violence (GBV).

Brian Mlambo (33) an activist says lobola should be treated as a token of appreciation to the parents of the bride for taking care of her. 

“It is in cultural significance a manner of respect and honour to the parents of the bride’s family”, said Mlambo.

“It is however an embarrassment and disappointment to the ‘men’ who have lost moral values of their culture by considering paying lobola as purchasing the woman hence mistreating them during marriage”, he added.

Mlambo also added that some of the women are trapped in abusive relationships all in the name of lobola and some are exposed to physical, emotional, and mental abuse. 

Leeroy Msipha (48) says he is from BaTonga culture says lobola concept is getting distorted and now many people have attached different meanings to it because demands are now too many. 

“In Tonga culture man have pressure of paying lobola in the form of cash, cell phone, clothes, cattle, groceries, goat, sheep, knived and hoe”, said Msipha.

Msipha also added that because of such demands men end up not distinguishing between a woman and property, women are abused physically, emotionally, psychologically because the men feel like they own them.

“When the woman is abused by her husband or her husband’s family she is advised not leave her marriage but to endure at the same time the family will be afraid of paying back lobola to the son in law, if it happens that her marriage fails the society and family members always blame the women for being careless”, he added. 

Some men who preferred to be anonymous said women are for sale and paying lobola means they are bought and that no woman should stand for her rights if the issue of paying lobola is not fixed.

Nxa lifuna sivume amalungelo abomamaqalani lithi amadoda engasakhiphi amalobolo, as long ngilobola kufana lokuthi ngiyathenga umuntu wesifazane”, (If you want us to accept women’s rights first remove the law which says man should pay lobola for the woman, if that does not change it is the same as buying women) they said. 

Petronella Tshuma (32) a feminist as well as an activist said that the issue of saying women are for sale on its own promotes GBV because to men a woman is property. 

“If we go back to basics and educate men on the intent of lobola as well as women then we have a chance of curbing GBV”, she added. 

"Lobola custom was originally a token of appreciation and not payment, thus whether a man has appreciated his in-laws with little or a lot is not a determining factor for him to abuse a woman. Abusers are monsters , they must not be allowed to hide behind tradition", said Khauhelo Noko a Pastor.

While the call to totally remove lobola has resonated with many modern communities, the profiteering that some parents and guardians have been making through the practice by demanding cattle, money, groceries, vehicles, clothes etc in a tough economy like Zimbabwe, may see this call not easily succeed as the practice slowly turns into a fast money making scheme.cleardot.gif