Shona Lobola Procedures

Roora (Lobola/Dowry)


A man marrying a woman from the Shona culture has to observe the roora. This is a sign or show of love and affection when a man saves up and marries his beloved. There are many ways this can be done but I will dwell on the general procedures followed on the following condition  The man has done all the other necessities e.g. proposing (not musengabere, kutizisa), formal Introductions (dated for over 6 months) and more importantly girl is not pregnant (damage) or previously been married (virgin?).  In Zimbabwe, roora takes place in a number of stages and each stage has its own traditions and small amounts to pay. The process can differ from place to place due to the fact that in the Shona culture there are 12 different ethnic groups.

Stage One – Introduction

This stage involves the ‘munyayi’ who is a go-between when a man goes to pay the bride price at his future wife’s family stating to the family his intentions and purpose of visit e.g. “I have been sent by (the husband) to look for Sadza” , literally translated to I have come to marry your daughter (name). Here they are asked who they mean. Once this is done the bride’s family will ask the daughter if she knows the people who have come to marry her.

Stage two – Grocery

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. Some families are more tolerant than others; A LOT of tolerance is needed as this is not a money making ceremony.

Stage Three – Preparations for payment

At this stage the bride’s family will ask for ‘ndiro’ normally a wooden plate from the munyayi 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.  Once the plate has been placed a process known as ‘sunungura homwe’ (loosening pockets) or ‘Vhuramuromomo’ (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 should done with humour and laughter just to make the ‘munyayi’ feel at home and comfortable.

Stage Four–Payments

The process of Roora negotiations can be long and complex, and involves many members from both the bride’s and the groom’s extended families so these days due to our busy nature in some parts it being shortened and made less complex. The payment stage has quite a many stages which can even take days to complete. These are now grouped in two main sub processes which are:-

1.    Zvireverere zvaBaba (Gifts for the father)

This stage involves payment that are direct from the bride’s father (a guardian or representative can accept charge for these if the paternal father is deceased or not known) which in the old days had a lot of very long sub-processes and has been shortened. The main payment is the ‘Matekenyandebvu’ to acknowledge him for “the pulling of the beard” as she sat on his knee, or putting up with the playful antics of his daughter as a child. The amount paid for the father is negotiable.

2.    Zvireverere zvaMai (Gifts for the mother)

Same as the process above the payment are strictly for the bride’s mother (a guardian or representative can accept charge for these if the maternal father is deceased or not known).

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 non-negotiable.

Stage Five – 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 between all the boys available at the household (usually can cause a lot of commotion if the amount is not even).

Stage Six – Musikana/Tete (Gifts for the bride)

The woman being married is required to pick some money from the plate for herserlf.  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. Usually this money can be returned by the woman to her future husband to cover the other payment that would follow.

Stage Seven – Rusambo (Roora, Dowry)

This is the most important stage called “Rusambo” and although the above process is referred to or called “roora”, this is the name given to the whole ceremony and all of the gifts, not just the bride price or dowry. Paying Roora is called ‘kubvisa pfuma’, giving (or parting with) wealth. Roora is wealth and its quantum must be consistent with wealth. This stage can only be reached if the stages mentioned above have been fulfilled. The bride price varies and nowadays factors in things like the social class of both the groom and the bride. This however can be paid as a part payment as long as some form of payment is made. For illustration purposes maybe the above processes may have cost the groom $1400 and he had only brought $2000 it is accepted for him to pay $600.00 and then the rest will follow for the next twenty years. If the groom fails to come up with any part payment then the whole process becomes null and void and will have to be started again at a later date and he will not be give his bride.

Stage eight – Danga (Livestock)

This stage traditionally is a gift of cattle and nowadays it is most commonly paid in cash, although the amounts will still be representative of fair market price for cattle.  Normally the number is between seven to eight cows and in those the most important one is the one for the mother known as ‘mombe yeumai.’ This should always be a live cow that the groom gives to the mother in law.  The cow is expected to produce an offspring as proof that the union has been blessed, also our belief the most powerful ancestors that protect us are the maternal ones.  ’Mudzimu wamai ukadambura mbereko’ (if maternal spirits let go) spells disaster.  To keep these spirits happy and attentive there is need to follow the ‘mombe yeumai’ protocol to the letter.  To to give ‘mombe yeumai’ is to acknowledge this spiritual symbolism. Once the offspring is weaned it is then expected that the cow can be slaughtered by the bride’s family and eaten by both families just as thanks giving and strengthening both the couple’s relationship as well as the family as a whole.  This will take place after two to five years. This stage is dependent on the Rusambo stage and if Rusambo is not available then they cannot proceed to this current stage.  In old times ‘pfuma/roora’ consisted of cattle, ’mapadza’ (symbolic iron hoes) and ‘machira’ (imported cloth) as indicative of a rich agricultural community.

Stage Nine – Majasi (Clothes)

This stage also 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.


N.B Lobola Groceries vary from family to family but the standard grocery list is:

Cartons or boxes of:

Cooking oil


Photo Credit: Blessing Mutinhiri


This article was written by Richard Chashamba Thank you very much for the information you shared with me, I hope someone will have a clear view of what the Shona Lobola Procedures comprise of and not be in the dark like I was.  This was very a very insightful article.

© MaKupsy


99 thoughts on “Shona Lobola Procedures

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    • Thank you for reading. I am glad it was helpful and please do share with anyone else you think might need it. All the best at your ceremony next month. 🙂


  4. Very enlightening piece of literature. Thanks for the good read. I have a lot of non Shona friends who always ask about this and you explained the roora tradition in such beautiful light. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading Barbs and I am glad this piece will come in handy for you. Please share with as many people as you can think of. 🙂


  5. thanks soo much. rilly interesting but the question at hand is how much do someone needs to complete all the roora procedures these days. or how much du yu need for a start so that you are allowed to wed.


    • Thank you for reading Marvis. I guess at the end of the day it depends on the family in question. You can never have a set and standard amount when it comes to roora.


  6. Thanks for the briefing,it was hard for us,as we are going there for lobola next week,we were blank,not knowing what to expect.thank you so much at least we have a glue.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. very informative. ini ndirimuzezuru ndakaroora recently. ndokumbirawo kutsanangurirwa tsika yekuperekerwa mudzimai kuti ndezvipi zvinoitwa nekutarisirwa kuitwa. ndatenda nebatsiro yamuchapa.


    • Thank you for reading. Ndichataura neumwe wangu akabatsira kunyora tinzwe kuti zvinofambiswa sei. I hope to get back to you soon. Makorokoto nekunoroora, makaita zvinodadisa.


      • Thanks you so much, it really helping us, as we grew up in byo,but we are shona ,and no nothing much about Roora? My question is my parent are both dead, who takes the money, we all stay in SA, as my mum was a South African. Left with younger brothers and uncles? Am talking about next month? Thanks once again


      • Hello Marie. I am happy to know that my blog has been helpful.
        Your brothers will stand in for your father. Your fathers brothers (uncles) also have to be there if they are still there.
        For your mothers side her sisters can stand in for her.
        I hope that helps and I hope you are still in touch with everyone you might need to contact.
        All the best on your lobola ceremony 😙


  8. What if i grew up on my mother’s side and people from my father’s side toatlly shunned us after my father’s death, do we follow exactly the same procedures???


  9. Hi ,
    Wow, what an interesting article. So glad I came across it. My other half is from Zambia and we are both in uk. My father is deceased and I whole-heartedly don’t wish to involve my fathers’ brothers or anyone from my fathers’ side for that matter (my father divorced my mother and went away with some lady ..). I have 3 brothers and my mother is around.
    How do we go about this ?
    Also since he’s from Zambia , instead of livestock – can it be replaced with money instead?
    Do we involve my beloved mother’s brothers( ana sekuru) since they were the figures that helped my mother to raise us up when things were tight for mom.
    I am from Masvingo (born and bred).

    Well he’s thinking of going for the dowry thingy sometime in August 2017, Or sooner.

    Please help:)
    Thank you in advance and also for such a beautiful blog- entry.
    Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ms Takudzwa. I have read your comment and will get back to you as soon as possible. Will ask those in the know on which way will be best for you to move forward.

      Thank you for reading, I am glad you enjoy my blog 🙂


      • Thank you Makupsy:)
        Looking forward to your reply.
        God bless,

        Keep doing the great work through your blog. It is indeed interesting and I slapped myself yesterday for not discovering way too early:)

        I came across it yesterday and I am a fan & admirer of your work already !!!😳 💝👂🏽👍🏽👌🏾😃
        xMs Takux

        Liked by 1 person

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  12. Hello

    thank you for your article. my marriage is a month away and I have never been married before and I have a three year old girl.

    my point is we had no idea how to go about it but thank you so much. you are a life saver 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad the article was of great use. All the best as you enter a new chapter in your life.Your little girl will be lucky to have not one but two amazing parents soon 🙂


  13. Hey MaKupsy, thank you so much for this article, we are Zimbabweans based in SA ,and we are going to marry the Zimbabwean way ,me and my fiancé didn’t know
    where to start
    wats needed

    But with ur articles, its all covered.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Thanks Makupsy, really interesting. The same practices are followed by the Mozambican counterpart of the Shona crossborder community with slight changes in the ethnic groups. All the best.


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  17. MaKupsy have recently heard that the Ndau people prefer to receive mombe yehumai as cash instead of a beast as in most shona cultures… how true is this? and is this the only variation that there is to the rites of kuroora?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. hie MaKapsy…….realy wanted to marry my girlfriend during festive season but the list of grocery they send to me…eesh i cant afford truly.
    cooking 2 boxes
    5 chicken
    5kg beef
    soap 2 boxes
    sugar 10kg
    rice 25 kg
    tea bags 4*500g
    15 boxes cremora
    2 cartons matches
    6crates scuds
    6 crates super
    3 boxes red and white wines
    2 bottles jack daniels
    4 cartons orange crush mazoe
    6 by 2kg surf
    1 box bath soap
    2 boxes royco soup
    2 boxes tomatoes
    2 packs onions
    3 pockets potatoes
    1 carton matemba
    6 bottles salad cream
    4 litres tomatoe sauce
    10 cabbages
    2 packs oranges
    5 packs sweets
    2 by 10kg loose biscuits
    2 carton simba
    1 big coffee tin
    4 jam tins
    2kg magarine
    2 dozen bread

    thats the list that they are waiting for…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my days! Do you have to buy all of it?? Why don’t you just buy the amounts that you can afford, I think that’s what matters the most, the effort you would have made is something some other men are not even willing to do in the first place!


  19. Hi, I am interested in the information around damages. Is it meant to be referred to as damages if the bride has had a child or is pregnant outside marriage for another man not the current groom and will that affect the lobola price ?
    Is its considered damages if the bride is pregnant for the groom before lobola procedures start and how does that affect the lobola price?

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Hello, if the bride is pregnant for the groom before marriage then yes, they will be charged damage. It does affect the lobola price because damage is set in stone, example, if they charge $1000 for damage there is no negotiations for that amount you pay all of it. I hope that helps.


  21. suppose we happen to play some mischief games, and i break her virginity before i customery marry or before i pay the Lobola , will i be charged for tempering with her?


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