Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
30 Sep 2015
3:13 pm

If Zuma wanted a MuVenda wife

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

On his special visit to Venda some time back, President Jacob Zuma praised VhaVenda women, saying that they are respectful, and that if he were not already married to his wives and wanted to marry, he would go to Venda to get himself such a woman.

However, there are processes, and rigorous ones, if you want to marry a MuVenda woman, or any African woman in general. Paying lobola is one such prerequisite. It is almost certain he was not being entirely serious, but let’s presume he was. If Zuma wanted a MuVenda woman, this is where he would have to start.

In these series of articles we will be looking at the various lobola and marriage traditions of the various cultures that make up this wonderful kaleidoscope of a country. Today we travel north.

Lobola in TshiVenda is called Mamalo.

Back in the days, a potential groom’s parents would propose to the potential wife, it was never the two who started the relationship. This because the parents knew the other family well – the character of the family and if they practised witchcraft. Delegates would then be sent to the girl’s family and ask for her hand in marriage, this before the two knew each other as potential partners.

They could simply know each other because they came from the same area, but never because they knew what the parents were up to.

The girl’s family would then call her and tell her about the marriage proposal, she never had the option to refuse. They would then send people to the groom’s family to tell to bring mapfangannyi, it’s the proposal money, explaining how they knew about the girl.

On arrival, the groom’s delegates would ask the bridal price. Usually eight cows, whether in cash or live cows. Contrary to popular belief, lobola was more expensive back then than it is now. This because there was a lot of money paid apart from the bridal price; Musumbuluwo, Khandamuta, Khumbela shiashi, Dzhasi la makhulu tshinna, Nguvho ya makhulu tshisadzi (either as money or gifts).

After all the money has been paid, the groom’s delegates would come to the girl’s home and stay there, being fed by the girl’s family, waiting for her to decide when she would go back to her matrimonial home with them. Then there is Tshikwashavhengele, money paid by the in-laws to the girl to go shopping with her friends. One of the items bought was a lamp, later that night the girls and the bride, along with the delegates, would leave without informing the parents.


When they enter the girl’s home, they don’t greet (Aa for women and Ndaa for men), they just enter the yard and take a sit. When the bride’s family come out of the house, they will know it’s the groom’s delegates. They were only fined if they entered the yard with shoes on.


Anyone (relatives) was allowed to negotiate, even the groom’s mother was allowed, but never the groom himself.

Lobola negotiations now

The girl and guy meet and discuss marriage on their own. The guy then tells the girl to inform her family that he wants to send delegates. Before the delegates come, the girl’s family could ask the guy to come so they can know him. This helps them know which groom to expect, and it shows the couple is serious about marriage.

The delegates then come and tell the girl’s family they saw a girl. The girl’s family then ask the delegates which girl they want. She then gets called to come and identify them, if it’s them, she agrees to the proposal. Then the guy’s family ask the bridal price, they pay money to ask such a question.

There is no time limit placed before they come back to pay lobola. They are also allowed to pay the full price at once. It is not allowed for the couple to get married before lobola has been paid in full, unless both families have agreed for them to go ahead with the wedding.


Note: This lobola process is not conventional among all VhaVenda people.

Next week: lobola negotiations for VaTsonga women.