Friday, March 31, 2023

Debate on bogadi rages on…

Former Bakwena regent, Kgosikwena Sebele, has weighed in on the bogadi (bridal price) debate by asserting that present-day protocols around this practice don’t reflect pure Setswana culture.

A noted expert on Setswana culture, Sebele strongly believes that bogadi should only be paid in instances when there are involved. As currently practiced, the former Customary Court of Appeal president is adamant that bogadi is a subversion of Setswana culture, an ill-considered importation of foreign culture.

“In Setswana culture, a woman does not have a price. In the olden days after the groom’s family had sought the bride’s hand in marriage, bogadi was only paid if the bride to be had sired children whom the groom agreed to adopt even if he was not the biological father.

“After engagement, the bride to be was given her own living space, usually a roundavel, accessible to the male partner within a grace period of six months for purposes of getting her pregnant. On confirmation of the conception, the male partner would be requested by the in-laws to pay one cow. However, it was only after the woman delivered a child that bogadi would be paid to claim the child,” he says.

In the last sitting of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, which Sebele himself sat in as a member when he was still regent, a suggestion was made that the government should regulate bogadi prices which lately have been skyrocketing. Sebele disagrees, arguing that each tribe has its own pricing structure. And indeed the price differs from tribe to tribe: among the Bakwena and Balete, for instance, the price is a minimum of eight cattle.

All too often, after the man’s family has paid an awful lot of cattle or money, the resultant marriage collapses in no time. This raises the question of whether the marriage contract should not have a semblance of a money-back-guarantee clause to extend full consumer protection to the man. While he states that bogadi cannot be returned when a couple divorces, Sebele notes the exception that has ridden off into the sunset: punishment where the woman was at fault.

In its original conception, bogadi was a token of appreciation shown to the bride’s family for all the effort they put into raising a small girl who flowered into a (preferably fertile) marriage-material woman. Whatever its deficiencies, there are strong sentiments among Batswana that bogadi should be retained.

One of them is Matlhoko Seanneng, an elderly man of Metsimotlhabe, who has been married for more than three decades. His own understanding of bogadi is that it is paid for the wife to bear children for the husband.

“It is an old custom that we cannot change. Traditionally, it has been paid in cattle and in this modern era, it can be fully paid in cash. The bogadi tradition is still adhered to as strongly as ever,” Seanneng says.


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