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Dr. Edison Zvobgo abolished lobola Mr Ziyambi: it has become commodified livestock with variable price tag!

21 Jun 2020 at 18:50hrs | Views
It should never escape me to comment on what Justice Minister Ziyambi previously said about lobola in our diverse cultures. Talking about lobola nowadays, almost every society in Zimbabwe upholds traditions that have lost its meaning and purpose. Widespread domestic violence is thanks to lobola that has commodified women and girl-children miserably. Lobola has become a currency to get financial back-up from fathers and social fathers alike. In a nutshell, lobola has lost its meaning long time ago.

Women including girls are commodities sold as possessions with a fixed value depending how educated the girl is. Is the girl a virgin? Did she get a child out of wedlock? All these factors determine the value and the price tag on the "livestock" called a daughter. Its initial meaning and respect related to this noble tradition has been thrown out of the window by patriarchy and men dominance.
Today, young under aged girls are sent for early marriages because of hunger in the family. Not so long ago, if the family were in debt and they could not pay it, a girl was to settle the debt by early marriage it did not matter how old she was. She is dispatched like a cow to the indebted family to square up debts. Mr Ziyambi, lobola has lost its sale by date, please initiate its abolition. We are seeing women and girls sold by their parents in the name of culture and traditions. We are living in the second Millennium Justice Minister Ziyambi; I refuse to continue to see treatment of women as commodities in the name of culture and African traditions. This is outrageous: I am sure several women share my disposition.

Let us take a close look at the values and virtue of lobola in the past generations of our grandmothers. Back then, lobola was a symbol that unified two families in the form of a hoe or an animal skin such as a leopard or lion skin. In Ndebele traditions, lobola was never paid until there was proof that the woman was fruitful. When that proof was established, did the son-in-law pay reasonable artifact to solidify the two families, a newly born child was the solidifier. Today, be it Ndebele or Shona traditions the lobola exploitation and extortion is the same. It is worse if the daughter received academic education and qualifications, the son-to-be will be charged tenfold and mercilessly.

This is the point we want to bring home that women have become commodities with a fixed value tag; there is no rational in lobola as a culture that upholds traditions to talk about.  Lobola is a relic of history perpetuated, recycled, and redefined to suit the current monetary conditions in families. This means families treat women as chattel, we are sorted according to how the society views us as women and are priced as such. Take for example a woman who became pregnant, got a child at her family homestead, out of wedlock; such a woman's value price tag drops considerably, she is rated less. She is used up material in the eyes of the societies. When she finally gets married to a second suitor, the lobola price tag is less than that of a woman who got married as a virgin. Can we continue to allow ourselves to be sorted out like that: treated by our families as commodities for sale, labelled as used up, cheap, and valueless as per society's perception in the second Millennium?

The value of a woman who has academic education and qualifications is augmented at the time of lobola payments. The father will want to extract the money he spent on educating his daughter and his argument is, her education will benefit the other family she is married to and not her own homestead. This thinking is wholly inward-looking: such cultural, traditional thought processes are self-defeating in viewing a daughter as monetary value-adding.

Why is educating a girl-child construed as a loss of family resources if she got married?  Educating a girl-child is supposed to empower her for her future just like a boy-child. The communities' benefit from an educated girl-child. For goodness sake, the noble epithet "girl-child education and empowerment" is not resonating in our developing dynamic cultures and traditions?

Dear Minister Ziyambi, let me tell you about my family values to understand my rage when it comes to lobola. When my grandmother Mampunzi of the Soto ethnic group married my grandfather: Talubinka Thata of the San populations,, she was given a considerable cattle stock to solidify her marriage to a prominent young man who worked for Haddon & Sly and got enough money to buy a farm at Mayembe council area. By those standards back then, my grandfather was rich. My grandmother's family was not poor either: her family was rich in cattle stock. Her father balanced the power play in the marriage of his daughter by giving her cattle. The marriage was harmonious: both parties were resourceful in the new dispensation.

My father: Paulos Thata had this at the back of his mind that to empower a girl is to give her resources to take with in her marriage. When my elder sister married a Luphahla man, my father gave the Luphahla family two cows. Those cows were to breed and replenish the kraal of her daughter' new homestead. That way, his daughter was going to get respect in the new dispensation. It was a kind gesture, unheard-of in most Ndebele cultures. He never accepted lobola from the son-in-law for reasons not known to this day.

My father died and never communicated the marriage arrangement of my sister to our first-born brother: Bigboy Raymond Thata. It takes an overtly narcissist brother like our own who was given authority to be the social father of the clan, to destroy what was upheld as noble by two previous generations. My brother DEMANDED lobola from a poor village man from Ngombane; Lupane who lived a humble life together with my sister. My brother, on the other hand; was rich with five big houses in the leafy suburbs of Hillside; Bulawayo. He demanded lobola, "his pound of flesh" all the same. He wanted THAT LOBOLA and he made it clear to my sister's husband each time he saw him at weddings and funerals.

Let me cut the story short dear Minister and press fast forward. I must get to the point I want to share with you and the societies in Zimbabwe: my effort to expose this classical case is to demonstrate a classical example how women are commodified by our cultures and traditions and taken over by greed. My elder sister's second daughter got pregnant; the man was from Mutare, Manicaland. The culture of the Manica people is that if a girl got pregnant, she was to elope to her future husband: she did, and the uncles were going to look for her until she is found.  Signs and directions were given where exactly to search and find her. Now press fast forward, she was found. The narcissist Bigboy and our second brother Charles were present when the case settlements took place.

DAMAGE WAS paid together with the lobola the same day. The son-to-be was well-to-do by all standards to manage to pay all that in one day. The role of the sekurus: in this case my brothers, to be part of the lobola deliberations was respect given to them on this special event and never beyond. But our overt narcissist brother got his "golden opportunity" to get what in his limited senses thought was entitled to. His sense of entitlement was out of sic with the very traditions they purport to adhere. It was indeed embarrassing: he jumped up and grabbed a portion of lobola money on the plate paid by the son-in-law to-be, without a single strand of shame.

Our second brother Charles suffered shame and disgrace for his brother's behaviour: but our narcissist brother enjoyed the game, had no qualms about his unbecoming behaviour at a decent ceremony of his niece. Later, Charles rebuked the so-called social father's dirty behaviour: he confronted him and charged at him. He was to return all the money that did not belong to him by any stretch of his imagination. Days later, he reluctantly gave back the money: His ego was flat.

This story of my family stands out and illustrates what has become of our traditions and how our societies still view our girl-children as monetary cash cows. Curiously, our women still love and cherish our lobola traditions even though lobola is the source of domestic abuse in most families. Men, immediately after the marriage ceremony automatically change their attitude towards the woman they have just married. According to our men, the lobola entitles men to do what they want with their commodity they have just bought.

Married men regard their wives as second class in the home, some of them beat, spit at their wives: infidelity that takes place in marriages simple means that the man is the boss, can do what he pleases. In rural homes women are made to work hard like slaves always to please the families they are married to. A woman has no say in the family unit, but the man is the head and can allow himself to make several mistakes single-handedly sometimes without consulting his wife. I need not say that there are few examples of good men who view wives as equal partners; they are very few such men.
There are women who pay their own lobola if they realized the boyfriends are financially not resourced enough to do it. This is taboo in our society for women to pay lobola on men's behalf: its clandestinely done. My sister's children paid lobola to my brother: that again is taboo!! This is how traditions are broken to suit awkward situations. My narcissist brother was privy of the fact that his nieces collected money together to pay for their father lobola-debt. This is taboo according to Ndebele traditions. My overly mean narcissist brother took the money, his long overdue lobola-debt – openly breaking the tradition: greed.

The desperation to get married nowadays is a cause to be genuinely concerned about our girl-children. The emphasis we should give is to make the girl-children resourceful and be able to stand on their own and never lean or depend on their husband's resources because it makes the relationship unequal from the onset.

Women compete about their lobola status: who is married and who is not. Who is co-habiting without a marriage certificate and who is married with a wedding ring on her finger? Who came out of her father's homestead wearing a white wedding dress and who eloped, started having children out of wedlock? Who is co-habiting without the knowledge of the fathers and social fathers? She has five children from five fathers! Such women are called prostitutes and cheap women.

 Its women who dress down, reduce the status of unmarried women as not worth: unmarried and single women are put under great pressure to get married. So many women have fallen into the danger of getting married at all cost. She has no time to vet a man, is the man good, kind empathetic enough to be a life partner and father of my children. Is he resourceful, you do not live by air and empty words alone but bread and butter on the table every day?

Men have ceased to be providers but still want to give command in homes as bosses. Even if a woman is provider, men want to continue to dominate the home. An African man cannot be a husband if he is not dominating the home and the woman is expected to play her lesser role. All this stuff and nonsense come from lobola rituals that give them the upper hand.  

Marriage is good but empowering a girl-child is even better. In personal development we women in third world countries are lacking behind because our priorities are misplaced. To perpetuate unequal relationship in marriages does not empower the woman, nor is it for the benefit of societies. Our communities depend on free, independent, and enlightened women with independent mind and resources. Life should never revolve around a man all the time as if they are centres of the universe.

Our Zimbabwean women are men pleasers to the point of madness: Please father, please brother, please uncle, please son, it goes on; there is no time to reflect and ask, when am I going to please me? A woman has no life to enjoy on her own. She will find pleasure if her life is defined by a male folk: father, brother, uncle, it goes on. For a woman to say, it is time for me, to please me is an abomination and unheard of: That thinking is not African and female and not motherly, a good woman sacrifices her life to the man from cradle to grave.

I openly confess that I forfeited African marriage when I realized I was going to be commodified by my narcissist brother who together with his wife put pressure on me to get married. I put my foot down, invited, and allowed insults associated with a woman who gave birth to a child out of wedlock. I was told "I am the rotten egg in the family" because I refused to allow the father of my child to pay damage. I endured psychological blackmail from a narcissist brother and his new wife: I was told if I died in Germany, my body will not be repatriated to Zimbabwe: a psychological blackmail to get lobola paid. According to my narcissist brother this should worry me and lose sleep: worry posthumous about my dead body, where it shall be interred.

There are serious issues an old woman of my age can worry about when I am dead, and certainly I am not worried about where my decaying corpse will find its resting place. I worry about the future of our girl-children in an unrepented chauvinistic society in Zimbabwe. I worry about under-aged girls who are given away for marriage because of poverty in the homes. I worry about rape cases on growing-up girls and elderly women in rural areas because the rule of law has broken down.

 Men take advantage of broken-down law and order to sexually abuse lonely overly aged widows in remote rural areas. I worry about the deterioration of our education and health system in our country; it means our children are getting sub-standard education and zero health facilities: this makes the future of our great Zimbabwe dim.

Former Justice Minister: Dr. Edson Zvobgo MHESRIP nearly abolished lobola and his legal deliberations on this issue were encouraging and exciting to some of us who had children already out of wedlock. He made us understand that legally we are equally valuable in society as single parents. A single mother should choose which surname her child could use, her own or the father of the child.

Further, legally a woman has the right to marry without lobola payment if she wished. It must have been my reaction to get married to a German husband: I made sure he does not have any lobola obligations citing Minister Zvobgo's progressive approach to cases of lobola in our societies that has been commodified to the point of madness.

Minister Ziyambi, I am profoundly grateful for the steps taken in legal clarifications at parliament level about lobola tradition in our societies. Our future generations should be rid of this practice that reduces girl-children to be mere commodities with a fixed price tag. Our girl-children should have it better than us because they deserve better.

Source - Nomazulu Thata
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