No matter how enlightened and feminist you may be, these cultural narratives are hard to escape.
She is spotted at SA’s biggest events in the skimpiest of outfits. She performs on stage sans underwear - that’s her signature and her form of activism for women’s liberation. And Zodwa Wabantu, 33, is unapologetic about it.
Her romance with Ntobeko Linda, who is 10 years her junior, raised eyebrows. But the social butterfly paid no heed to any criticism. Last week, she raised eyebrows once again when she got down on one knee at Eyadini (a popular night club in KwaZulu-Natal) and proposed to Linda. The nightclub is the place where she was discovered by Afrotainment. Her sentimental attachment to this place has now deepened with her proposal.
Wabantu’s wedding ring, which she bought herself, cost about R50 000. Her fiancé’s ring was around R5 000. In making public her proposal and her willingness to pay lobola for her husband, she’s kicked a hornet’s nest, so to speak, as it goes against the cultural practice of the Zulu nation.
Traditionally, lobola (the “bride price”), is a gesture made with cattle (and/or money) from the groom to the bride’s family. Typically, this involves the groom’s paternal uncles approaching the bride’s paternal uncles in a ceremonial process of negotiation. Some say lobola must be abolished as it has lost everything it is meant to stand for. There is a feeling that this tradition has become about the objectification of women and not about relationships between families, as was the original intention.
Professor Sihawu Ngubane, the deputy dean of undergraduate studies in the faculty of humanities, development and social sciences on the Howard College Campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an expert in the Zulu language, it’s literature and culture, said: “My view on this matter is simple - ilobola has been challenged from many corners of society because of its cost. In the past, the environment was different in the sense that the focus was on bringing two families together, utilising whatever they could afford. Now lobola is about how much you have.”
This has led to some couples choosing to live together, either because they can't afford lobola or because they don't believe in the practice. Others have dug their heels in saying they cannot abandon this custom because if they do, they lose everything that is African about themselves. They are opposed to the view that what is African is barbaric and that which is Western is civilised.
And so there are two camps, one fighting against what they view as the increasing Western strangulation of African customs and the other saying that we should do away with this practice completely.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on Wabantu and what is viewed as an act of defiance. Will the Linda family accept Wabantu in the role of umakoti? South Africa waits with bated breath to see if Wabantu’s lobola will be accepted and what it will mean for other women.