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Sunday, 25 January 2009

The price of happiness

How the economy is wrecking the marriage market

The great institutions of Zimbabwe continue to crumble into dust. The latest is education, as the government fails to open the schools for a new term. But despite this and everything else, I am continually surprised by the way normal life struggles on. A particular struggle is one in which my friend Gumbo finds himself embroiled this week.

Gumbo is a man in love. His fiancee is Judith, 25. Judith is quite a catch - good looking and kind, with a degree in economics, a science much neglected in our impoverished state. She'd make any young man an excellent wife.

With that in view, last Friday Gumbo travelled to Plumtree, in Matabeleland south province, to visit Judith's parents. The object of the visit was to settle the matter of Lobolo - the bride price.

Lobolo, for western readers, is a traditional Zimbabwean custom. The Bride Price is exactly what it says. The intention behind it is to cement relations between the two families. In normal times it is not exorbitant.

But these are not normal times. Gumbo arrived at Judith's home. Ten minutes later he was leaving, in a state of humiliation, bewilderment and despair. Through saving and scrimping he had accumulated a sum of 2000 South African rand. About US$200. He thought it would be sufficient. He thought wrong.

Judith's parents demanded the equivalent of US$3,200.

Thoughtfully they had itemised the total for poor Gumbo. It went something like this:

Fee for entry to in-laws' house            US$100      

Introduction fee                                     US$150

Fee for status as son-in-law                US$550

Six head of cattle                                 US$1,200

Education compensation fee              US$200

Added to these amounts was a fee for "damage". Yes, as many readers will know, this term refers to the undeniable fact that Judith is four months pregnant. The fee - US$900.

And the additional US$100 still not accounted for? Judith's parents request a designer suit for the father and a designer dress for the mother.  Oh yes - and three blankets. 

Normally lobolo payment is staggered over the years. Judith's parents want the lot now. And they want money for Judith's upkeep, for her maternity bills, for...

Gumbo is a defeated man. He has no hope of finding the money. Is he a victim of the economic breakdown in Zimbabwe? Perhaps, yes. But then again, ask yourself this: would you sell your daughter for a designer suit, a designer dress, and three blankets?



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Ah yes, Lobolo. We remember it well. That wonderfully quaint tradition by which the poor are kept in poverty, whilst potential in-laws get greedier and greedier.

We've got friends who've been asked for cell phones, vehicles etc.

Is necessary that kind of shit? Why can't he marry the girl and forget that nonsense? I mean, in current Zimbabwe's situation I would avoid any kind of unnecessary expenses...

Lobolo is just a tradition that indicates that a woman is very valuable to the family. In African tradition when a woman marries she is now part of her husbands family and is therefore not going to contribute any further to her biological family - after all the money you have spent on bring her up, educating her etc. It would be just the same for the men if they were leaving the family but the man is not seen to be leaving but instead his family is seen to be gaining a member.

It may seem like a cold transaction to a Westerner but perhaps you should better understand African cultures before writing sensationalist articles/comments.

In such economic times in Zim there is no reason to be ‘selling’ your daughter off short – the additional penalty just serves as another much needed deterrent to men who do not fully understand the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy.

The family has to show that the daughter is precious to her - but not necessarily in terms of money. Often the pride of the bride herselve depends on the amount of lobola. But I have heard there are women emancipated enough that they tell their parents to only ask for symbolic lobola. It is possible.

Gumbo is not a defeated man. 1 Judith is pregnant
2 He will come back, and this time it will be a different story because Judith will be with a baby in her hands, and the baby will be named after one of the in-laws, this will make their hearts softer and later changed to one of the Gumbo family member's name.This is to please the old man Gumbo.

3 Judith is not going to stay at her parent's house she will leave for her poor Gumbo.
Gumbo was suposed to check with Judith and her Aunties before going to face the in-laws.

For those who are planning to get married, you are advised to go Kwachiadzwa if you cannot then you remain with two options to take Mugabe out of power or not to provoke vakazvara vakadzidzisa vana vavo.Because we will not stop charging vakwasha mari yatinoda inokwanisa kutipa hufu uye nemucherechodzo wekuti tine mwana akaroorwa.

Regai kumitisa ndapota kuti musazoripiswa chero vakada mari sei avaripise pasina mhosva.

come on Gumbo just leave the poor girl for someone one else
there are many desperate girl's in Zimbabwe for marriage
our prospective in-laws are just a greedy lot
u might discover that Judith's dad also damaged her mother

greedy parents. why should gumbo pay 4 her parents educating her?, thats not his responsibility an he has a child to look after. did they think about that. anyway traditionally you pay lobola for the children your wife will have. not all the nonsense on their shopping list

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