August 13th marks 143 days since South Africa announced its lockdown and over the weeks and months that have gone by, many in the country have had to get used to operating a little differently. Social distancing, strict hygiene protocols and reduced activities across the board have meant having to find new ways of operating. Birthdays, funerals, weddings and marriage proposals have all had to adapt to our “new normal” but this week, one couple broke even more boundaries when they conducted their lobola negotiations over Zoom.
Melusi Dlamini and Thandile Mafu made history as the couple conducted the first (known) virtual lobola negotiations as their families, in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape, met over the conference calling app to discuss the matter of their children’s union. This event got tongues wagging as many wondered if this might be an alternative for some couples in the future.
What is Lobola?
Lobola, also known as lobolo (and by several other names in various languages) is an African practice that involves providing payment, either in cash or heads of cattle, from the prospective groom’s family to the parents of the prospective bride for customary marriage. It serves as a formal introduction of the families and is often seen as a non-negotiable first step in a couple’s traditional marriage journey.
Why was it done virtually?
With the threat of contracting Covid-19 still extremely high across many parts of the country, Melusi and Tandile had to make a difficult decision when it came time to take their relationship to the next level. They wanted to traditionally affirm their love for one another but did not want to risk contracting Covid-19. “Usually for lobola negotiations, my family representatives and I would travel from KwaZulu Natal – Vryheid, all the way to where my fiancée stays in the Eastern Cape, iDutywa,” Dlamini explained to All4Women. “But now with the pandemic at hand, and my parents being in their old age, we resorted to Zoom.”
The images of their virtual love story have dominated social media for the past few days and it’s opened the floor for other couples to wonder if they too could unify their bonds virtually.
A case for traditionalists
There are a few traditionalists who have argued that conducting Lobola negotiations via Zoom (or indeed any other virtual platform) might be a convenient workaround for the time being, but it is certainly not a permanent alternative once the threat of the virus disappears.
The argument made is that by robbing the families of the opportunity to meet in person, a lot of the novelty of the day is lost. Virtual meetings aren’t quite as intimate as face-to-face meetings and when given the option, many would rather opt for the latter. Others pointed out a few other light-hearted risks:
What’s your take on virtual Lobola negotiations? Would you try them out for your family?