Who pays the lobola when South African same-sex couples wed in cultural tradition?
It’s open to discussion, but can make a sensitive topic even more nerve-racking, according to several couples who have gone through the experience.
Former Our Perfect Wedding host Nomsa Buthelezi and her partner Zandile Shezi decided that because going public about their relationship had been a struggle, they were not willing to compromise on any traditions when it came to their wedding. This included lobola and performing traditional ceremonies such as umemulo.
Since sharing the news of her nuptials, Buthelezi’s social media timeline has been flooded with questions on how she plans to navigate the cultural requirements of a Zulu wedding.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be simple, but we have two families that accept us and love us and were willing to try to make this work for us. Zandile is very respectful of tradition and she sent her family over to mine to ask for my hand and pay lobola. We were determined from the get-go to do everything right.
“At the end of the day, these traditions are made for two people who love one another and whether they are two women or two men shouldn’t bother anyone.
“Some people ask: ‘Why are you ruining traditions that were meant for a man and a woman that love each other?’ But I ignore them because I know they don’t understand that love is love, no matter how it looks.”
Buthelezi said the lobola process had gone smoothly and they were now planning their umemulo — a traditional Zulu coming-ofage ceremony for women — and a traditional wedding set for December.
However, things went differently for Sihle Vezi, 35, and Senzo Zama, 46, from Glen Vista in Johannesburg. The couple, who run an advertising and events company, married in 2016. Vezi said though their families were not against their union, they did not want to offend the culture by going the traditional route.
“This was a strictly personal decision. We would have had to involve our uncles, [but] we didn’t think it would sit well with them as we are traditional Zulu people. Imagine lobola being paid for a Zulu man,” Vezi laughed. “We just decided to do something generous as a gift to our families. Senzo renovated part of my mom’s house and I gave his family a gift in monetary form.”
Zama said they decided to bypass the lobola issue to protect their families. “We didn’t want them to do things they didn’t understand. They would try to accommodate us, but then they might get confused, as this is new to them. Another unavoidable thing is that they might be a laughing stock,” said Zama.
“We wanted to be decent. It was just two men wearing suits.”
Johannesburg customer service representative Makgosi Rabotapi, 27, said she and her former wife’s families had contributed equally to lobola and given it to them to start their lives.
“It was her idea to get married. She even sent her uncles with a letter to my house.”
It was Rabotapi’s father’s view that they should support the couple.
“He suggested to my uncles that both parties agree on an equal amount and give it to us. He said this is to help us continue building a blissful life. I’m proud of my dad for having such a mentality,” said Rabotapi.
The contribution amounted to more than R90,000. “It helped kick-start our lives. We got a car, and rented a house,” said Rabotapi.
However, the relationship did not last and the couple divorced last year after a year of marriage.
Luyolo Xotyeni, 26, a third-year student at the university of Fort Hare, declined a lobola proposal from his partner, Samora Xotyeni, 32, an IT technician at Raymond Mhlaba local municipality in Eastern Cape, because “I am not his wife, but husband. Lobola would mean I’m a woman,” he said.
“I am a bottom and he is a top but still, I’m not a wife,” said Luyolo.
At the end of the day, these traditions are made for two people who love one another and whether they are two women or two men shouldn't bother anyone.
– Sunday Times