Of many things affected by Covid-19, the process of Shona marriage or payment of lobola received its fair share of bashing. So many other cultures emerged with dents which will change the face of how things will be done post-coronavirus.
Countless customary marriage ceremonies were deferred resulting in many who would have been married remaining single.
The payment of lobola in foreign lands was a departure from the norm.
But what is lobola payment?
Most first generation Zimbabweans in the UK still consider the lobola process a way of life which cannot be ignored. On one hand, African traditionalists regard lobola as part of Africanness and strongly seek its perpetuation. However, reformists consider it primitive and oppressive and seek its abolition. Both acknowledge the lobola struggle that is prevalent in Zimbabwe. Stories abound in the Pentecostal church and Zimbabwean media about lobola abuse.
To understand the importance of lobola one must be well-versed in the beliefs, ideas, implications and experiences of lobola in a Zimbabwean community.
Being in England has taught many Zimbabweans to better understand conceptions and misconceptions that society has, on bride price payment.
Lobola/Roora is the customary token paid by the man to his wife-tobe’s family.
This is the Zimbabwean culture for a groom to ask for his bride’s hand in marriage.
Also, this token is for appreciation to the bride’s parents for raising the bride-to-be and to unite the two different families. Bride price or roora is a uniting factor which is meant to unite and not to exploit.
Payment of dowry or lobola is a significant element of marriage in the Shona culture. However, the functions and meanings attached to the practice are constantly changing. So by being in a foreign land a whole lot of things do change in the process.
The Chikodzonga family in Bristol United Kingdom was shocked on the day of lobola payment.
As the family waited for the arrival of the groom and his relatives, a Nigerian man, walked in and said: “ I have the money where is my wife” he threw a ward of cash on the table with one hand in his pocket. He had come all alone, no go-between, no relatives. The family looked at each other in awe.
The other family waited for their son in law to come and pay the lobola. Sure enough he came with an entourage of 20 people. When the time for payment came, the son in-law had one hundred and fifty pounds only. He believed that payment was a token and 150 was enough. That was another day in the cultural jungle.
Among young people in the Diaspora, the meanings and functions of lobola are hotly contested, without cultural leaders in Diaspora, the majority will be putting the last nail on the coffin of our beautiful custom.
While many people see lobola as a valued part of Zimbabwean culture, others also view it as a financial transaction which necessarily disadvantages both men and women since the world of equal rights does not base marital value on bride price.
Diaspora seeks to explain the young people’s interpretations by reference to discourses of ‘equal rights’ and ‘culture’ prevalent in Zimbabwean communities.
In the foreign land, there are important issues in lobola which are substituted.
The son-in-law will be told to substitute the livestock with cash. Mostly because there is nowhere one can put the livestock in the UK so it’s easier if it’s money. This defeats the whole important especially the mother’s beast. Mombe yeumai. It has always been a live beast and never cash. It should be known that livestock, is an entrenched part of marriage in Zimbabwe.
Being that as it may, Covid-19 has introduced a very new way of managing the bride price payment process. This can be called lobola via video call.
The Zengeya family could not postpone the dowry payment so an arrangement was made.
The son in law was to arrange a zoom programme. This is a programme which is like a conference via video calling. You will be able to see every participant who will be allowed in by entering a specially provided password.
The conference was activated. In this instance the zoom provided a wall where you can post chats or board with messages.
So the payments would be flighted on the board.
The in-laws on the wife’s side had an account number flashing on the board. So any required amount will be transferred in the account.
The man holding the accounts details will confirm once the funds reflect and then move on to the other item on the list.
The interesting part was when the son-in-law was now requested to be seen.
The camera shifts and points at him thus he is beamed and fills the whole screen. The son-in-law is fully introduced.
The groceries are needed, so under lockdown they are dumped at the door then the aunties pull them into the house.
A very significant part which confirms the relationship is the part where the in laws on the man’s side have to eat it so that a relationship is cemented.
How do we eat on line?
So the eating part is done by one family. Stay at home rule has to be observed.
In the whole process Covid 19 has eroded the most important parts of our sweet customary norms.
A virus which is unseen but lethal has changed the face of cultural values forever.
Diaspora now is engaging technology in fulfilling our customary oaths.
So the video calling has replaced social unity.
Funerals are now conducted via zoom so is church services and many gatherings.
As human beings are social animals, there are gatherings which cannot be done via zoom.
How do we party on zoom?
How do we attend a wedding via zoom?
Yes, Covid 19 has taken away what has been practised since time immemorial.