I was honoured to attend a wedding service on Thursday, December 22, 2022 in Bulawayo of Velani Moyo, a catechist at the Mbuma Mission and Gugulethu Nyoni of Bulawayo.
During the four-hour trip back to Mbuma, we, Willy Geurtsen, Ronald, Nienke and I learned a lot about Zimbabwean marriages from our driver, Mr. Khumalo and his wife. More than 25 years ago he had gone through the procedure of paying lobola in order to marry his wife-to-be. His family had to pay in kind, or cash, to the head of the prospective wife’s family in consideration of a marriage. He mentioned that paying in cash is not a very good option, as the inflation rate is over 280% and
rising. Since it may take years before lobola is fully paid, cash in local money is out of the question. Much better, and widely practiced, is paying in cows or otherwise foreign currency. Did I hear that correctly? Was the payment eight cows in his case? Anyway, eight cows is not an unusual payment for lobola. He had been married for over 25 years and, as I understood, there was still some lobola
to be paid, although he owed now quite a few cows. Maybe he was reserving them for his son who was of age to marry. In most cases, lobola is reportedly paid to honour the woman’s family for their efforts in raising her. When I asked him what would happen if a wife passes away before the lobola is fully paid to her family, he answered that you do not pay for the woman but for the children she is going to give him. He added that you take much more care not to leave her without a good reason when there is lobola agreement.
In the old days, in traditional Zimbabwe, when a man failed to pay, he would stay and work for his bride until his father-in-law was satisfied with his labour. Only then would he receive his bride. As the christian Zimbabweans say, the Biblical Jacob in the Old Testament worked 14 years for Laban as lobola for his wives.
There was so much more to ask, but after a long day, which had started at 5 am already, leaving from Mbuma Hospital, all the way to the Free Presbyterian Church in Bulawayo, driving as quickly as possible for two hours on a dirt road , followed by two more on a tarred road full of potholes, we were exhausted! we still managed to buy a set of dishes in Bulawayo for the bridal couple, arriving just in time for the wedding ceremony. First of all, a quick visit to the toilet, where we had to use a
bucket of water because of an out-of-order flush! ‘Never mind and no need to hurry’, the bridegroom’s sister whispered in my ear. The car arranged by the bridegroom to collect all the family members had broken down! As the bridegroom put it: “by the will of the Most High we managed to proceed up to the end. A lesson derived is that ‘man proposes, but God disposes”.
The bride, Gugulethu Nyoni, was unaware of all the transport problems. She entered the church, bright and beautiful looking, together with the bridesmaids. A white and furry stole covered her shoulders on this rather cool day, compared to the 35 degrees temperature in the shade on the following days. The Zimbabweans have so little money to spend, yet they put so much effort into being well-dressed for the wedding.
The bridegroom’s twin sister led the bride to the front of the church. She grew up in Thembiso’s Children’s Home under the teachings and doctrine of the Free Presbyterian Church. No parents who could accompany her. How lonely must she have felt! The bridegroom, Velani Moyo, is a twin son in a family of nine. He was received as a member of the FP church in the Zenka congregation and, as mentioned earlier, is currently the catechist at Mbuma Mission. At the moment, he is studying Greek and Hebrew. The plan is to move to Scotland for further studies to become a minister of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Rev. S. Khumalo preached about Genesis 2 verse 24: ‘ Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh’ . and
seriously warned the listeners about the unbiblical ideas of the present time, where the wicked men of this world are turning marriage into their own thinking. There was no man created to marry a man. From the New Testament he explained Ephesians 5: 22-25 about wives that submit themselves unto their husband as unto the Lord. God did take a bone from the rib which are protecting vital organs. This shows how precious she is. It is the duty of the men to love their wives
as Christ loves His Church. And he concluded with Matthew 19:6 that he is the One who joined them together.
Among the hearers were, of course, the boys and girls of Thembiso Children’s Home, Guguletha’s former home. Rev. S. Khumalo had a double function that day. He first delivered his wedding sermon and afterwards he functioned as a marriage officer. In Zimbabwe, a religious leader may solemnize a civil marriage instead of a magistrate. Parties sign the certificate, together with the licensed minister and two witnesses above the age of 18. The licensed minister then enters the marriage in the marriage register book. This is not much different to what happens in The Netherlands. There is no legal requirement for payment of lobola. However, that is the custom in Zimbabwe. To marry in an acceptable way you have to pay lobola. I assume this was not the case for Velani’s and Gugulethu’s marriage, since there are no relatives to pay for it. It is sufficient to give the oath according to the ordinance of God during the ceremony in church: Will thou have this
woman/man to be thy wife/husband and wilt thou pledge thy faith to him/her, in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, to live with her/him, and cherish her/him, according to the ordinance of God, in the holy bond of marriage?”
After the service, everybody started chanting with Mr Nkosie Khumalo’s deep, well-sounding voice clearly audible. On a home visit, soon afterwards, to a Free Presbyterian family near Mbuma, I met Velani, the bridegroom, in person. It appears there had not been a honeymoon trip for the newlywed. The wedding was on Thursday. They managed to travel and meet family members on Friday and on Monday it was back to work. For Velani it was working as the catechists and for Gugulethu it was working at Mbuma hospital, the place where they had met in 2021. They are still looking for a home of their own.
This is what Velani feels about his marriage: “It was and it is so pleasing to be married in an acceptable manner, not only by society, but by the Word of God. It is pleasing is to be married to one with the same background, as far as the spiritual
pillar is concerned. It is indeed a new thing and our first time to live together as husband and wife. It makes me happy to have someone in my life who shows concern about me, who listens to my problems and shows love in everything. Above all, it makes me happy and thankful to the Lord tha He gave me one who knows God and my prayer is that the Lord will make us grow spiritually.”