A pre-packed lobola agreement document has caused a row since making its way on to supermarket shelves, last week, according to a Sunday Tribune report.

The document, published by manufacturer and stationery supplier, Hortors, and drafted by entrepreneur Jabulani Mahlangu, has been labelled by some as a form of ‘cultural expropriation’, but welcomed by others.

The four-page document, which retails for R99 at Shoprite and U-save supermarkets, allows space for the full names and ID numbers of the bride and groom, as well as details of those representing each side to be filled in.

Mahlangu said he saw the need to formulate a binding document, after being part of several lobola negotiations.

‘It is important that we synchronise and harmonise our agreement in relation to the law, to legalise our marriages, as the law requires us to,’ he said. He explained rural communities were not well equipped in drafting legal documents that would assist the process, resulting in a number of women getting kicked out of the homes once their loved ones had passed on or separated.

After he penned the document, he took it to a law firm to test if his innovation could stand in court.

He said the lobola agreement was not meant to replace old traditions or uncles, but should rather be seen as a ‘new school tool to assist negotiators and families’.

He said if one of the partners decided to renege on the (lobola) agreement, then the law, under the Customary Marriages Act, would take its course.

Cultural expert Dr Nomagugu Ngobese described it as a move to ‘erase our cultural identity as indigenous people’. Ngobese argued that there are no contracts when negotiating lobola and that the process is one of ‘passion’ and not a money scheme, notes the Sunday Tribune.

However, lawyer Mfundo Lebogo, from Bregman Attorney, welcomed the agreement, stating it would give protection to parties involved should a dispute arise over payments.

‘It dignifies lobola negotiations, and in the case of disagreements, it gives legal protection to everyone involved. What happens with lobola is that people often misplace the pieces of paper where the negotiations were written down, and disputes over payments erupt,’ he is quoted as saying.

Full Sunday Tribune report (subscription needed)