‘Payment Of Lobola Not A Legal Requirement’

There is no law that compels Zimbabwean men to pay lobola (bride price) to their in-laws and the arrangement can only be done with the consent of both parties.

Therefore, a father cannot block his daughter from marrying a man of her choice because the suitor has not paid lobola.

This was settled once and for all by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe in 1984 in the case of Katekwe v Muchabaiwa.

United Kingdom-based law lecturer, Alex Magaisa revisited the case in a recent Twitter thread:

Lobola: Katekwe v Muchabaiwa

This thread is in honour of one of the iconic cases in Zimbabwean Family Law, reported in 1984. The father of a woman had sued for seduction damages from the man. The lower courts had ruled in his favour but the man appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Legal Age of Majority Act, passed in 1982 (LAMA) had liberated black women from their old status as perpetual minors under customary law. A father no longer had a right to claim seduction damages for a daughter who had reached 18 years.

It’s probably hard to imagine it now but LAMA & the judgment were pretty revolutionary for black women. Before, a black woman was a minor under the guardianship of her father or husband. She could not enter into any contracts, including marriage without her guardian’s consent.

LAMA meant at 18 a black woman acquired full legal capacity & the power to enter into any contract. The SC reasoned that if a woman could now marry without her father’s consent, the father had also lost the right to demand payment of lobola before the marriage.

In the past, since the father’s consent was necessary, a woman’s marital fate was entirely in her father’s hands. He could withhold consent until the prospective husband paid lobola. A woman’s body & choice were controlled by the father & afterwards by her husband.

In theory, seduction damages were based on the reduction in value of the lobola that the father was entitled to per customary law. However, the SC reasoned, since LAMA had done away with lobola, the basis for seduction damages had also fallen away. A father had lost the right.

More: Alex Magaisa on Twitter

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