JOHANNESBURG – The tradition of Lobola has been described as one of the things destroying the family nucleus in the country.
Former African National Congress member Dr Makhosi Khoza who recently launched a new political party, the African Democratic Change (ADeC), has told Africa News24-7 that her organisation would be looking at policies that would reposition the lobola practice in society.
Khoza said the exorbitant fees associated with the practice were playing a significant role in creating a society where children grow up without both parents, playing an active role in their children’s lives.
“I recently had a conversation with unemployed young men and they said their greatest fear is that they will die without getting married because they can’t afford Lobola. We are destroying families by doing that,” she said.
Khoza further added that many families don’t support cohabitation without the process of Lobola having taken place. She said the move was placing enormous pressure on men, some of which are unemployed and therefore, battle to find large sums of money just to be able to live under the same roof with their children and partners.
Research conducted in 2013 by the Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, and Sonke Gender Justice has found that although a father’s physical presence is not necessarily a positive outcome on its own, widespread father absence has detrimental consequences for families and for society as a whole. Responsible and engaged fathers, who do their share of parenting work, are beneficial to the development of children and to building families and societies that better reflect gender equity and protect child rights.
The research found that widespread father absence in South Africa was intricately connected to historical, social, economic and cultural contexts. According to the paper, father absence was often influenced by ideological factors such as materialist constructions of fatherhood and masculinity; socio-economic factors such as poverty and unemployment of fathers; cultural factors such as the cost of customary practices like “ilobolo” and “damages”1; and relationship issues of various kinds.
Khoza’s approach to the problem ties with the findings and she said the situation has to be turned around.
“Most children are growing up out of wedlock. It is because there is a lot of pressure on men to pay Lobola. Probably we need to come up with a dispensation that takes into account the critical importance of Lobola but at the same time, we must find a way of ensuring that there is a conversation about the fact that most men want to be in a family but they can’t establish such because they can’t afford Lobola. As a result, we end up with more children growing up with one parent actively in their lives,” she said.
Khoza maintained that the process was also putting unnecessary pressure on the mothers who are forced to deal with problems their children encounter on their own. She appealed to society to relook the notion of putting a price tag on one’s access to their children and the ability of fathers to play an active role in their children’s lives.