After revising lobola prices in 2012, Batawana royals have once again issued a stern warning that those who continue to charge exorbitant prices for lobola might find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
In 2012, the Batawana tribal leadership revised lobola prices after observing that some people were deliberately escalating charges while men who wanted to wed, particularly those from outside Ngamiland, were forced to part with unnecessarily large amounts of money in the name of love.
Batawana Chief Representative, Charles Letsholathebe told Sunday Standard in an interview that they had to nip the practice in the bud because it was too harsh for some families who ended up not being able to wed because they could not afford the exorbitant lobola charges.
He called on people who suspect that they were being charged too much to feel free to consult the tribal leadership and air their concerns so that action could be taken against those who are found culpable.
“The fraudsters must be called upon to answer for their actions. We expect them to know better,” he said.
The bride price charges have been reduced to six herds of cattle or P12 000 cash. Child maintenance has been set at four herds of cattle or P8000, child legitimization two herds of cattle or P 4000 and damages four cattle or P8000.
Legitimization (go tsala bana) is whereby lobola is paid for children born out of wedlock. The arrangement is made soon after a father decides to marry a woman who is not their mother. Such children will then opt to move in with their father or remain with their paternal parents, where their father will still continue to contribute to their well-being. Such children are also entitled to their father’s inheritance.
The arrangement has become very common in Ngamiland as a whole and most people seem to be comfortable with it. Letsholathebe said as Batawana they do not want to be seen to be greedy or as opportunists.
“We regard this practice as fraud because it means people are being deceitful. We have a culture to safeguard, and our expectation is that our people should always comply,” he said.
As for damages, Letsholathebe was quick to point out that mothers are only compensated for first born children. He explained that this is so because customary courts do not regard other pregnancies that may follow after the first child is born to be seduction.
“We always encourage mothers to consult magistrate’s courts and claim maintenance. It might sound confusing to some, but it’s a tradition that needs to be followed,” he said.
Quizzed on the rationale behind legitimization, and whether it is not a means to brew conflict between children and their step mothers he said: “The expectation is that the new mother should know what lies ahead. Women can be manipulative at times, and that’s one thing that always causes conflicts. They tend to forget their roles and end up turning things upside down,” he said.
In situations where both parents would have jointly built a home before the legitimization process, Letsholathebe said culturally Batawana consider the residence to belong to the man’s first children. He said in circumstances such as these, wives have no powers as the overall ownership is of the children’s father. He said they always take that by contributing towards the construction of the house and other developments, the woman would just be helping out.
“As it stands now, the standardized charges still apply in Ngamiland only. Our wish as tribal leaders is that other tribes may emulate our tradition as it has proven to be fair. People should not take social events as a way of making business, but as a way to bringing families together in peace,” he said.