The Ogre behind Lobolo Custom?

Lobolo (Bridal price) is even quoted in the Bible. Interestingly, the Biblical quotations reveal that in paying such bridal prices, the offer was initiated by the son-in-law. In the case of Rebecca, it was initiated by Abraham’s servant on behalf of Isaac (see Genesis 24:53).  Jacob offered to work seven years for Rachel (Genesis 29:18). In short, the bridal price (Lobolo) was not charged by the father-in-law. The offer was derived from how satisfactorily engaged the groom had become with the bride at stake.

The father-in-law had no role in suggesting the bridal price. Although on additional seven years that Jacob had to serve as bridal price for the second wife, this had been a technical treachery played by Laban on Jacob, as the story goes. Nonetheless, nothing takes away the fact that the seven-year labour for the purpose of marrying Laban’s daughter had originally been suggested by Jacob; not by Laban.

Compare this with what prevails, as Zimbabwean culture, whose origin is a mixture of tradition and Christian religion. The father-in-law charges what he wants for his daughter. The charge can be anything reasonable to what can be adjudged as unreasonable, depending on the negotiating skills of the Munyayi or Sadombo (an intermediary or negotiator). Viewing the charge as unfair, the groom may decide to leave the girl for another one, if his love would not be grounded on firm foundation.

Nevertheless, another vice ensconced in Lobolo custom, is fear of Ngozi (curses). Most people fear curses, assumed as coming with inability to properly fulfill one’s obligations on marital requirements. Thereby, paying whatever is supposed to be paid to the in-laws, in order to feel comfortable and safe, having settled one’s entire marital requirements.

But due to hardships currently prevailing, others turn a blind eye on possible consequences arising from failure to meet one’s obligations on such issues. Needless to say that such ineptitude by those concerned compounds the existent social problems in Zimbabwe.

Yet, if the groom truly loves his bride, why should he be influenced by someone else, in parting with his wealth, for instance? Whatever one pays to his in-laws should be regarded as token of appreciation, considering that the father-in-law offered his own daughter to the groom concerned. This should not be viewed on commercial principle.

No responsible father would like to sell his own daughter to someone else, on commercial terms. The token that the father-in-law becomes comfortable with, should simply be for purposes of sealing the relationship between him and his son-in-law. It becomes only a sign of good intentions, revealing the dignity of the son-in-law, valuing the merit of the bride concerned. This does not necessarily have anything to do with consideration of exclusive exorbitant biddable offers on display. The question is on whether there would be true love between the two.

The value should be determined by the person proposing marriage, where true love exists between the two of them. Under normal circumstances the bridal price should actually be one’s life time. The seven years of labour to Laban, shows that Jacob truly loved Rachel, who to him must have been a matter of life and death.

No wonder why he had to commit himself to serve for another seven years, after Laban’s treachery. The Bible reveals that Jacob could not have gone that far, had the matter been solely pitched against Leah, where his beautiful Rachel would be left out of the picture.

The Zimbabwean culture, on charging lobolo, is another trendsetter on social conundrums of Zimbabwe. God provides workable standards, as compared to diabolical solutions being currently pursued. This is even as Paul advocated to the Corinthians, that giving should not be as though by obligation (2 Corinthians 9:7). But, by free-will, as on decision to pay dignified bridal offers, executed during the above referred Biblical times.

Under normal circumstances, even commercially, prices should be assessed on the basis of what the customer is prepared to pay, not what the supplier charges. In other words, if someone convinces me of the value associated with the commodity being offered, I should be accorded the privilege to determine the price, in accordance with my satisfaction. The price should be negotiated on the basis of my satisfaction, not what the supplier determines. The rule that says “customer is king” applies, in this scenario.

What currently prevails is that the supplier is king and customer is inferior. Just as fathers-in-law are viewed as kings, when marketing their daughters. The mentality of valuing the supplier, ahead of the customer, invariably, brings in substandard commodities, including marriages that are fraught with divorce cases in law courts. Although the mitigating factor on marriages is on where there is true love, binding the two. But what prevails in divorce courts reveals the true story.

Our Zimbabwean commodities cannot compete locally, let alone internationally, to sustain the national economy. This has got nothing to do with the often quoted “sanctions” mantra. It is sheer failure to realize that each individual needs to transform him/herself to become valuable, being able to offer what is valuable to others.

It should be taken as norm that people are generally predisposed to pay for quality products, where such value is approved by customers themselves. True gold cannot stand on mountain tops shouting, “Here I am, please pay so much for me; as I am worth this value!” Gold is attractive. It attracts anyone interested in it, willing to offer the price of comparable magnitude to acquire it.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, which lays down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into becoming a model to other countries worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social instability. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabwean readers should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.