Chiefs forcing Zim Govt To Compromise On Lobola Law

The Zimbabwean government is prepared to agree on the inclusion of the payment of lobola as a legal requirement for registering customary unions in the proposed integrated Marriages Act.

This development comes a result of traditional leaders, in the Senate, who rejected a clause in the Bill that stipulates that payment of lobola must not be used as a prerequisite for a couple to register any marriage. The said clause says that couple can make arrangements for customary unions with no one else withholding permission for the union.

Chiefs, however, insist that lobola (bride price) is the mandatory hallmark of any customary union and have rejected the government’s argument that lobola could not be used as an obstacle in any marriage union by two consenting adults.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on Wednesday, proposed that the Bill be passed, arguing that deferring the Bill over just one point prejudices the nation of other pertinent benefits in the proposed law such as criminalizing child marriage which has been a menace in society of late. However, there was no headway in the resulting debate, forcing another adjournment of the debate on the Bill.

The Marriages Bill

On the 10 June 2020 the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs presented the Marriages Bill to the Senate, in which he spoke about lobola.

"The transfer of marriage consideration (lobola) in our indigenous culture traditionally solidified bonds between families, but a disturbing trend has developed over time to commoditise or monetise the marriage relationship for material gain. Some guardians of brides hold out for the highest possible gain for themselves, while others refuse consent to the formalisation of marriage until the last cent of the marriage consideration is paid. This is why so many of our customary and non-customary marriages are unregistered. To solve this issue, the Bill will no longer require a customary marriage officer to satisfy himself or herself that there has been an agreement in the transfer of marriage consideration."

Some people misinterpreted this to mean lobola had been banned, which is not the case. What the Marriages Bill of 2020 did was amend section 7 (1) of the Customary Marriages Act by removing the requirement for lobola as a prerequisite for a customary marriage. This remove lobola from being a legal requirement for customary union and as a result allowed customary marriage officers to be able to solemnise customary marriages whether or not lobola had been paid.

This shifts the status of a customary marriage from being an agreement between families (through lobola) to being the agreement between the bride and the groom (through consent).

The Bill sailed through the National Assembly in 2020, but has since been stalled in Senate due to disagreements between the government and traditional leaders, on the clause related to the payment of lobola.

Debate on the Bill resumed in April, 2021 but no common ground was found on the issue of lobola as traditional leaders who argued that payment of bride price was a hallmark of marriage in customary unions.

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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