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I-lobola in contemporary South Africa: perspectives and experiences of young people.

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Marriage continues to be an important aspect of life for people around the world, it is a respected way of family formation and a way for two people to unite including their families. In South Africa, it is often expected among Africans that there is a payment of i-lobola before the actual marriage. I-lobola continues being a cultural practice that is common in South Africa and other African countries. However, over the past few decades there has been some changes in i-lobola and the focus has shifted from uniting families to financial gains. The aim of the study was to shed insights into the practice of i-lobola in contemporary South Africa. Data was collected using in-depth interviews with 20 participants, 10 males and 10 females between the ages of 18 to 24 years. All participants were students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. The interviews suggest that i-lobola is widely recognized among young people and it still holds cultural significance. Participants emphasized that the significance of i-lobola was to unite two families however as the years progressed, people lost the meaning of i-lobola as they were commercializing it. Participants stated that there was a relationship between ilobola and marriage because the payment of i-lobola is a practice that must be followed for a marriage to be recognized. The interviews suggest that high i-lobola payment is one of the reasons people are cohabiting. Participants stated that some families used the virginity status of the girl and her educational attainment in order to determine the amount of payment for ilobola. Participants had different attitudes regarding i-lobola, with some still arguing that ilobola should continue being practiced because it is part of their culture, while others stating that it should be stopped because it has lost its significance. The study recommends that man’s achievement should also be considered when determining the value of i-lobola. Since families use i-lobola for financial gain, it is recommended that before i-lobola negotiations commence, both families should advise individuals who are about to get married about the importance of true love and proceed with the negotiations once they can see that both individuals understand the importance of marriage. The study of ilobola should be replicated with older people. This may help in getting a better understanding of the purpose of i-lobola. Conducting a study on the elderly may create an understanding on the origins of i-lobola as the elderly acquire knowledge regarding the significance of i-lobola.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.