He promised to pay lobola but now he's nowhere to be found, what next?

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Couples sometimes are get cold feet and the lobola negotiations have to stop.
Couples sometimes are get cold feet and the lobola negotiations have to stop.
True Love

You've told your family, prepared a feast and your uncles are ready for his uncles.

After all, it's a big day. Lobola negotiations can be an exciting period not only for the couple preparing for their nuptials, but also for their families.

But what happens with things go south and one of the parties no longer wants to get married anymore? What if they get cold feet at the last minute and just don't show up?

A TikTok user took to social media to share how her fiancé and his family had failed to arrive to their second leg of the lobola negotiations. In preparation, she had hired a DJ and a stretch tent and food had been prepared.

Her partner was nowhere to be seen and he was not taking her calls.

Read more | The great debate - When can a couple consider themselves married in a traditional sense?

Attorney Zincedile Tiya says marriage contracts are not like other contracts where you can force the other party to stay even when they want to terminate the contract.

“Marriage is a union,” he explains.

“You cannot force the other party into marriage if they do not want to, but you do have legal recourse if you want to go the civil route,” he adds.

Ayanda Gwabeni of Majali Gwabeni Attorneys says in the past, someone could sue for breach of promise to marry, but that is no longer an option.

“Recent judgments have disallowed this claim saying it no longer confirm current community morals. Depending on what happened, you can claim for sentimental damages if you can prove that the actions of the defaulting party were calculated to injure you. Alternatively, that their action were so unreasonable another person would not have done it.”

Ayanda says in the instance that things had been prepared, bought or hired for negotiations, there can be another claim for actual damages.

“The innocent party has reasonable prospects of success in a claim for sentimental damages as well as actual damages that can be quantified. Had it not been for the other party’s actions or promise to arrive for the negotiations, then costs would not have been incurred,” he adds.

And sometimes, the cold feet happen after a man has paid lobola and the woman then decides she doesn't want to go through with it. But she'll be keeping the money.

Read more | ‘My brother promised to pay lobola for 3 women, ghosted them on negotiation day and feels no remorse’

Both Zincedile and Ayanda agree that men who find themselves in such situations can also approach the courts.

“In some cultures, the same people who negotiated the lobola return to ask for the lobola back when the couple will no longer be getting married and if they cannot reach an agreement, a claim of undue enrichment can be made,” Zincedile says.

Ayanda says the claim also depends on how much lobola money had already been paid.

“Usually, the agreement is that the groom’s family can take their makoti after a certain amount has been paid. If for whatever reason the woman no longer wants to marry but does not want to return the lobola, the man could approach the small claims court if the amount already paid is less than R20000.

“If the amount is more than R20000 which is the jurisdiction of the small claims court, then they can go the route of undue enrichment because the woman would be in breach of the contract.”

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