Lobola In Zimbabwe

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Lobola / Roora is the customary token paid by the groom-to-be when he is about to marry his bride- to- be to his in-laws. Paying the bride price or roora is an acceptable way in the Zimbabwean culture for a groom to ask for his bride’s hand in marriage. Also, this token is for appreciation to the bride’s parents for raising the bride-to-be and to unite the two different families. Bride price or Roora is split into categories eg makandinzwanani, matekenya ndebvu, kunhonga, kupinda mumusha and rusambo. Some of these categories may not appear on every list depending on culture and religion of the families. [1] The payment of lobola is common in the Southern African Region in countries like Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana.


  • Traditional

In traditional Zimbabwe, iron age century, roora was paid using a hoe. The hoe was obtained from the well-known iron smelters, the Mbire people in the Hwedza mountains. The hoe was the most accepted symbol of payment of lobola. When a man failed to present a hoe, or badza, as lobola in marriage, he asked for kutema ugariri, meaning he would stay and work for his bride until the father-in-law was satisfied with his labour then he would be given his bride. [2]

  • Religion

The Christians quote their book, Bible to trace back the origins of kutema kugarira. The Biblical Jacob in the Old Testament worked seven years for his bride Rachel. Then Laban, his father-in-law, cheated and gave him Leah instead because it was not proper for a younger sister to get married before the older sister did. Because Jacob loved Rachel so much, he worked for another seven years. In the end, Jacob worked for 14 years for Laban as lobola for his wives. [2]

However, with urbanisation, the roora system moved from kutema ugariri and submission of a hoe to monetary payments, livestock (mostly cattle) and groceries.

The Lobola Ceremony

After obtaining the list from the in-laws and agreeing to meet on a set date, the groom engages a third party named munyai to facilitate the roora proceedings. Munyai's role is to negotiate on behalf of the groom from the start of the day until payments are complete and the groom is invited for introductions to the family he has married into.

The groom is usually accompanied by his family ( aunts, uncles, siblings and maybe his father.) The groom does not sit/attend the room/ place where the negotiations are taking place. However, he and his companions are given room to sit in and wait for the ceremony to take place. This practice, however, differs form family to family depending on their beliefs.

From the brides family, the ceremony is usually attended by the bride's father/guardian, uncles, aunts, siblings and cousins. This side of the in-laws usually encompasses the larger number since the ceremony takes place at the brides home.

Roora Stages

  • Introduction

In most cultures, the munyai mentions the intention of visit eg..'Ndauya kuzotsvagawo sadza...'. I am here to request for your daughters' marriage. The bride family usually ask munyai the name of the girl whom they wish to marry. After the bride acknowledges the groom's name then the proceedings begin.

However, in some areas the Munyai approaches the bride’s village, he positions himself strategically and shouts “Matsvakirai Kuno!” Any villagers who hear him chase him away as they attempt to whip him. After a while, however, he is allowed into the village to deliver his message without fear of being attacked.

The Munyai then passes on his message to the family elders (the woman’s uncles). The elders meet to deliberate on the issue, and to set the level of Roora to be paid. Once they decide, beer is brewed and shared with the Munyai to formalize the agreement. The Munyai then returns to the groom’s family and presents the list of items to them. [3]

Varying from culture to culture in order of payment and names, here are some of the roora stages.

Zvidiki/ Zvibinge

These are some of the small items included on the roora list;

  • ndiro - At this stage, the bride’s family will ask for ‘ndiro’ normally a wooden plate from the munyai and if he has brought one he would present it. This (the plate); in the past used to be provided by the bride’s family but since some people began charging for them some go with their own wooden plates/ metal plates.
  • vhuramuromo -(meaning opening of mouth) where a small fee is paid to for the greeting of the guests. At this stage, some fines may be imposed. For instance, if the groom failed to meet an earlier date even if he notified the bride’s family well in advance and any other misdemeanours he might have done, These, however, are done with humour and laughter just to make the ‘munyai’ feel at home and comfortable.
  • kupinda mumusha
  • makandinzwa nani,
  • kunonga - The woman being married is required to pick some money from the plate for herself. This money in some places can be set by the aunt or the woman’s sister. This is a small allowance for ’Mari inonhongwa nemusihare’ for the purchase of household or cooking utensils, and this amount is given to the bride. If there are younger sisters or siblings, she may give them a portion of the money. This money is for all the cooking that would have taken place for the party which the groom will finance after the ceremony is concluded.
  • Pwanyaruzhohwa (Dhameji), This is paid if the couple had started to co-habit before the payment of lobola or the bride is discovered to be pregnant / no longer a virgin.
  • matekenyandebvu,
  • marava nhungo ne zvimwe nezviripwa -ripwa.

Zva Mai

The gifts for the mother of the bride in the old days included things like ‘mbereko’, for carrying the bride in a pouch or sling when she was a baby, and ‘mafukidzadumbu’ for covering of the belly; this is alternately translated as “carrying the baby in the womb” or “tucking the baby in with a blanket (when she wakes in the night)”. These are now charged under this blanket term due to the complexity of the past processes as well as the fact that people may have even forgotten exactly the names of the processes. The amount paid for the mother is deemed non-negotiable. These are some of the tokens given to the mother of the bride-to-be

  • mafukidza dumbu,
  • Mombe yeumai.
  • Mbatya dzaamai


This is the part that is considered to be the most important part when paying the bride price, traditionally one would not be given his bride before he pays rusambo. The family of the bride would request a cow or goats but nowadays it is sometimes paid in cash.


This refers to the livestock that is given to the bride’s father traditionally the groom would bring cattle but nowadays part of it can be paid in cash and few cattle (Dzinotskiaka) meaning live.


A list is given to the groom prior the ceremony, this will be a list of groceries required to bring to the family. The items are then checked and should match that on the original list for example if its 5kg of sugar he should bring exactly that and not less. Adhering to the stated requirements of the new in-laws is a show of respect from the new son-in-law. It is often advisable to do exactly as stated or better, to ensure smooth relations between the newly united families, however, some families are more tolerant than others.


This stage is dependent on the Rusambo stage. It is the gift of clothes that the groom is expected to buy for his in-laws. As stated after Rusambo has been paid and the bride’s family are 'happy' the groom and his party will then be invited and welcomed into the family ‘Kupinzwa mumusha’, the groom will then greet the in-laws as a new groom (no longer a prospective groom or stranger, but a member of the family) with the special traditional clapping greeting ‘Gusvi’ and is permitted to be a part of the household. At this stage, he will be given a list of items of clothing that both the mother and father require normally full attire from top to bottom.

These are clothes bought for the bride’s parents for example, Baba (1 x suit) (1 x shoes) (1x shirt) (1 x hat) (1 x umbrella) (1 x overcoat)

Mbudzi yedare /yemachinda) Goat

This is a live goat that is brought by the man and is slaughtered during the payment process. The whole goat is then cooked and made ready to be served after the completion of the ceremony. If they don’t bring a goat a payment will be asked for and this money is shared equally amongst all the boys of the brides' family available at the ceremony.


The term dowry has been used to describe lobola on many occasions. Dowry refers to the amount of money/property a bride to be brings to her marriage. Usually, dowry would've been given by her family to ensure she is 'firmly secured financially' in her marriage in the event that her husband isn't able to provide for her. This custom is common in the western countries.

Time Frame

In the Zimbabwean culture, it is commonly believed that the roora is not a once off payment. However, in other cultures, the lobola payment is paid at once. There is a Shona idiom that says, Mukwasha mukuyu, haaperi kudyiwa. (The son-in-law is a fig tree. which always have fruits to give.) This idiom indicates that the groom to continue to pay roora throughout his lifetime.


Traditionally roora was used to unite two families and the pricing factor was not as important as it is conceived now. Roora plays a fundamental role in defining the relationships between the two families and, in particular, the levels of respect, which are due between various members of each family. [4] Other schools of thought have indicated that

Adventurous parents have introduced some modifications. They will say things like, “my daughter is educated; therefore, I need all the money I used on her education back.” They will, therefore, ask for something ‘high.’ The actual ‘price’ is very subjective, and nowadays it depends mostly on the girl. Is she previously married? Is she educated? Is she beautiful (whatever that means)? In the end, the process slowly begins to feel like an ordinary transaction – like an item is being valuated and sold – which is certainly not what it was intended to be. It was meant to be a tribute paid to the parents of the girl – one that the groom was all too happy to pay, especially right when he was ready to settle with his lover.


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  1. PAYING THE BRIDE PRICE LOBOLA OR ROORA , mc, Published: 22 May 2017 , Retrieved: 16 March 2018
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lobola and the meaning of marriage , TheHerald, Published: 6 November 2013 , Retrieved: 16 March 2018
  3. Roora – A key component of the Zimbabwe traditional wedding!, Zimbabwe Wedding, Published: , Retrieved: 16 March 2018
  4. Nhaka yevaShona The function of roora, Nhakayevashona, Published: 7 October 2011 , Retrieved: 16 March 2018
  5. Lobolo: A High (Bride) Price to Pay , CULTURE, Published: 23 September 2013 , Retrieved: 16 March 2018

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