Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Lobola - the cost is high

This past weekend I gave a lift to two Natal Parks Board gentlemen from the NPB office to a nearby settlement, which was on my route. In the passage of our conversation, about the city vs country life, the younger man mentioned that he wanted a job in the city, to earn more money, because he wanted to get married.

This is where the whole lobola issue comes in. Lobola is "a southern African dowry custom whereby the man pays the family of his fiancée for her hand in marriage. The custom is aimed at bringing the two families together, fostering mutual respect, and indicating that the man is capable of supporting his wife financially and emotionally".

Cows now cost R4,000 each and the young man has to give 11 of them (a standard lobola amount) to his prospective bride's family. That's R44,000! How do you save this amount of money when you're earning minimum wage of around R1,500?

Laughing I suggested: "Don't get married". But marriage and lobola is a strong tradition and is very important to this young man.

This is probably quite a strong force driving young men from the rural areas (homes, family, rivers, crops, cattle and traditions) to the cities where they still earn minimum wage (if they get jobs). In the city they're likely to end up in poor living conditions with no family support, no means to grow food and in an environment where the cost of living is higher and what they have is likely to be stolen from them. And, once they're married they'll probably end up staying in the cities to work, away from their wife and children, who they'll only see for a few weeks a year.

I find this quite sad.

No comments: