modern-day ilobolo

DRAWING IT UP: Mpho Lebogo, left, negotiates with client Thabiso Motloung. 04/05/09. Pic. Bafana Mahlangu. © Sowetan.
DRAWING IT UP: Mpho Lebogo, left, negotiates with client Thabiso Motloung. 04/05/09. Pic. Bafana Mahlangu. © Sowetan.

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

Traditional practices like ilobolo have to keep up with the times, says Mpho Lebogo, who says he has spotted a gap in the market.

His company, Magadi-Lobolo Institute, helps families negotiate ilobolo.

"Negotiations started changing a lot after 1994 when people started paying with money and not with livestock. When money started dominating the negotiations, [other] factors also changed.

"In rural areas, ilobolo is now at least R6000 and it is R20000 in urban areas," he says.

Lebogo says money itself has caused many people to lose sight of the concept of ilobolo.

"When we are in negotiations and the woman's family start talking about the number of degrees their daughter has, then we demand she give birth to as many heirs.

"It is wrong for parents to demand money because their children are educated. This is not about selling your daughter. You should rather invest in her values than in material things.

"The custom of ilobolo should not be for the parents. It should be used to pay for the costs of the wedding."

So, is a company that negotiates ilobolo needed in the hurly-burly of the modern material world?

Cultural expert Pitika Ntuli thinks not.

"This is a symptom of modernity. What happens with ilobolo should be between two families and should not be outsourced. If it is outsourced it should only happen with permission from the royal house or traditional leaders.

"The deviation from customary law is either a collapse of youth or a revolutionary change to keep up with global practices."

But Lebogo says he does not take sides during ilobolo negotiations but merely "ensures that tradition is followed".

He says that the man is entitled to a refund of his ilobolo if the couple separate before the ceremony where the family accepts the bride.

"If the families have only had the slaughtering-of-the-sheep ceremony and the couple separate, then the groom is entitled to a refund because the groom's family has not yet accepted the bride as part of their family."

The institute also negotiates polygamous marriages.

"The most important thing is for the first wife to agree to the marriage. It is culturally not allowed for a man to have sex with his wife from the time when she is three months pregnant until she has finished nursing the child.

"To avoid the man having extramarital affairs, the man must have more than one wife.

"Even in the Bible, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines."

Lebogo says they do not discuss HIV-Aids when negotiating polygamous unions.

"That does not feature because we are dealing with adults. The man understands there must not be mistresses any more."