Aug 31, 2011

Posted in General | 53 Comments

ILOBOLO : Its Meaning and Process

ILOBOLO : Its Meaning and Process

Know the vocabulary, the dialect … Know the language!

Rational behind Lobola?

The first critical question is Why Lobola? Lobola is not the way we are taking it today and it was never meant to be what we are thinking of today.

Firstly: When Umnumzane and Umama gets children, they always wish to get a boy as a first born, for the continuation of the family name. Secondly, getting a girl, on the other side does not guarantee the continuation of the family name instead it symbolizes the wealth (ukungena kwezinkomo) ekhaya and also an outside extended relationship.

Thirdly, umnumzane for him to see that Umsamo is alive (uyaphila) and his ancestors are strong and present, he would see that by having many cattle (Umhlambi wezinkomo) and all his children get married. But no one wanted his/her child to get married to the family which is poor and not really well doing. That is why in the olden days most abamnumzane wanted their daughters to be taken by families with many cattle so that he can get more, and also as a guarantee that his daughter won’t starve emzini. So during those days people use to charge whatever number of cattle for ilobolo. There was no fixed number of cattle.

This process of paying lobolo with no fixed number of cattle, was revisited by Sir Theophilus Shepstone known as USomtsewu ka Sonzica, who actually so this tradition as an exploitation and he then fixed the number of cattle to Eleven (11), hence today we have lobolo as eleven cattle.


Ilobolo is cattle (regardless of number) paid by umkhwenyana for his umakoti. It is various cattle with their specific names and functions paid to the father and also to the mother of their daughter.

These cattle are a sign of pride and showing that ‘your daughter will never starve when she joins the family.’ It is ubumnumzane of the umkhwenyane’s father, that we are not that poor. Secondly, it is a token to the Amathongo (ancestors) that isibaya is growing, and as it grows it will create strong umuzi for them (amathongo). That is why these cows have various names and meaning. They are as follows:

  • Ubikibiki – This cow is given to the mother by umkhwenyana.
  • Ubhaqa – The cow given to the umakoti’s father in order to light the way
  • Umqholiso/Ingquthu – The cow given to the mother of umakoti.
  • Umumba – Cow also given to the Makoti’s mother, but part of the ilobolo
  • Imvulamlomo/Ingqaqhamazinyo – cow given to the father in order for him to talk to the abakhongi (people sent to pay lobola)
  • Imvula – is the cow that gets mentioned first before even paying the ilobolo.
  • Unozungeza – Part of ilobolo
  • Inhlabisamthimba – the cow that gets slaughtered on the wedding day
  • Isibhoma – cow that also get slaughtered on the wedding day.
  • Ibheka – additional cow.

(Remember that these cows in some other areas are all collectively called AMABHEKA)

The other two cattle just accompany these cows; hence we say (Umakoti akaqedwa). That is why people do not pay all the ilobolo, because of the belief that one day umkhwenyana will be of help to the family (umkhwernyana isiphuzi sokuhquzula)


All the time when we talk of ilobolo, we always confuse it with Izibizo. Izibizo is just what the mother wants from umkhwenyana, and it has no prescription, but the mother uses her own discretion. It is the conversion of the inkomo called Ubikibiki. Today most people call these izibizo ubikibiki, which is the main cause of confusion. Once umkhnwnyana has paid these cows, he can request for the date for the wedding. We must therefore never confuse ilobolo, which is cows and izibizo.

Ilobolo is not a gift or thanking to the parents of the daughter for raising her up.


Ilobolo is a two way process. It is the process governed by the amathongo, as the belief is that to have people coming and initiate ilobolo is a gift from the ancestors. Umakoti is a gift to umkhwenyana and his family to such an extent that the belief is that umakoti is not yours as umkhwenyana but is for your father. Also on the side of umkhwenyana, you are unmkhwenyana of the izalukazi zase mzini.

As umkhwenyana pays these cows, there are also cows which get given to umakoti by his father on the day she leaves her family.

These cows are:

  • Umbeka – the cow that get given to umakoti to slaughter it when arriving at emzini.
  • Imbeleko – the cow also given to umakoti, saying that it will be slaughtered for her children once she is there.
  • Umthothongo – the cow that gets given by the father to umakoti, on behalf of the ancestors to always look after her at emzini.
  • Isiqodo – the cow that is paid by the umakoti family for slaughtering on the wedding day.

Besides these there are cattle which also get slaughtered on the wedding day paid by both umakoti and umkhwenyana:

They are:

  • Ibhoma
  • Ishoba/Inhlabisamthimba

Ilobolo is an issue between the two families. The first person who happens to know that there will be abakhongi (representatives from the umkhwenyana) coming, is the mother of the daughter. The father is always kept in the dark all the time. He will see people sweeping the yard, doing all the cleaning, but he will never ask.

On that selected day, abakhongi will arrive early in the morning and shout at the gate by saying ‘sizocela isihlobo esihle’. It will be then where the father will know for the first time. But, even though, he will never attend to those people alone, but will call his brothers, and the neighbours to come and listen. When abakhongi are shouting they will be mentioning these cows, by their size, their gender and their colors. When inside the house they will be asked to repeat what they have been saying.

The first cow that will be requested will be iMvulamlomo for the father. It is only then when the father will start talking. The father will call all his daughters and ask the abakhongi to point at the woman, once that is done, and then negotiations will start.

The elders will carry this work until up to the end. The two: umakoti and umkhwenyana have no say what so ever in the whole negotiation process. We must remember that, it is only the elders that can represent the Amathongo and not the youngsters.

Where Twala says the elders communicate with the ancestors when lobolo is paid does not happen at the beginning, but that is a different process which happens during the acceptance time and also during the wedding time.


It is mentioned in the article that some people say they do not need paying lobolo because they have been together for a long period. Also other people do not want to pay lobolo because of the fear that their marriage will not last long. What makes those marriages not to last it’s because of certain slaughtering which were never fulfilled. We must understand that, the marriage between two people in an African Culture, is not marriage unless is blessed by the amathongo. Such blessings are done through various rituals, where either a goat is slaughtered or a cow for the inyongo to be used for either umakoti or umkhwenyana.

These are the goats which get slaughtered during the ilobolo process:

  • Ilongwe – slaughtered after accepting the cattle
  • Ukucola abakhwenyana – slaughtered for abakhongi as sign of acceptance
  • Imvuma – slaughtered to accept umkhnwenyana

It must be understood that these processes differ today from place to place. But even though, it is these goats’ inyongo which connects umkhnwenyana and amathongo, also umakoti and amathongo.

During the wedding other cows gets slaughtered where their izinyongo are used as symbol of connection.

Those who say their marriage will never last, it won’t last if these processes were never done.


Lobolo is a problem in our era because we do not have people who have a clear know how of what it is, and why was it or is it still being practiced. Lobolo, has more value that just a mere practice. We must always put it into a context whenever we talk about lobolo, and not just discuss it in isolation.

Today we are confusing ilobolo, which are cattle and izibizo which is just goods – , and something else. It is these izibizo where people start doing their gambling, which is conducted very badly.

Customarily Zulus consider marriage as an opportunity through which new bonds are formed between two families in the main, that of the bride and the bridegroom. The process of ukulobola, to pay the bride price in brief, is a critical stage in which the symbolic and material gestures of the coming together of these two families is realised. Often, a great deal of pomp, ceremony and robust negotiations accompany this custom. Although historically the lobolo ritual predates colonialism, ‘the Europeans who codified Zulu law and the missionaries, regarded lobolo as being in the nature of a business transactio in which a fixed price had to be arrived at,’ so argues social anthropologist Absalom Vilakazi in his celebrated book on aspects of Zulu culture and tradtions, Zulu Transformations. It is in the context of this particular historical moment in Natal that saw then governor Sir Theophilus Shepstone uSomtsewu as Zulus called him, impose a figure of 11 cattle as a standard for ilobolo.

By doing so, Shepstone was deliberately distorting an otherwise noble practice as part of a bigger and nefarious agenda of depleting the cattle herds of Zulu men who otherwise saw no need to pay various demeaning taxes nor submit to the needs for cheap labour at the time. To refer to Vilakazi again: ‘By Zulu customary law, the very essence of lobolo was its indeterminate character, for it was part of the gifts that pass to and fro between the contracting families as long as the marriage persists. The izibizo are part of this general pattern.’

To return to the matter at hand, the following points are worth considering :

  1. Assuming that a woman is getting married for the first time, her lobolo rites often comprise sending a delegation from the future bridegroom’s party who start a process towards paying all 11 cattle to the future bride’s family.
  2. Izibizo zikamama or her mother’s customary dues are paid as part of the lobolo process.
  3. Before she is allowed to join her new family, a special cow called udondolo is offered.
  4. She is then anointed with sacrificial bile to mark her new family status, more so that she is now no more a member of her original family.
  5. Should she divorce or her husband die, for her second marriage lobolo is not required.
  6. Instead, a token is given to her outgoing in-laws.
  7. Since traditionally Zulu and other African societies frowned the idea of a divorce, the widow or a divorced woman can be paid whatever that can be negotiated by the two parties without the involvement of her direct parents as she no longer belongs there.
  8. Thereafter either a goat or a cow is slaughtered to mark her new family status.
  9. As is the case in many cultures, in the final analysis, the failure or success of any marriage mainly depends on the two people who have entered matrimony.
  10. In conclusion, although various pressures and influences of modernity and socio-economic conditions have brought both distortions and innovation to the lobolo custom, in general, the practice still constitutes the most preferred, revered and recognized gesture of cementing the marital bond and calling upon the ancestors and God to bless it.


  1. Thanks for creating the perfect platform.i want to know the difference between Izibizo and grand mother and my mother told me that izibizo is not in line with our culture but just a foreign habit.

    I’m in the process of getting married,on the 28/08/2011 i paid nine cattles to my father in-law (uMukhwe)and he ‘ve said before that he does not do izibizo for the same reason i put before.can someone clarify for me please.

    • Sibusiso Zulu says:

      Ningakwazi ukusitholela ngesizulu yonke incazelo eniyichazayo ukuze kube lula.

      • Siyabonga wena waseMbo.Khabazela nginabantwana engabathola kubantu abehlukene,ngabakhokhela manje ngifuna ukuthi babize isibongo sami hhayi ezako malume wabo.abanye bangiyalela ukuba ngikhokhe inkomo yokumthenga umtwana ekhabo nina,abanye bathi noma ngingamthenga uyohlala engowase khaya ko ninalume.

        siyezwana nonina yize noma singasathandani kodwa ngifuna izingane zami zihlale ndawonye kanye nalezi ezisekhaya ku nkosikazi,nonkosikazi uyazithanda kanti nazo ziyamthanda,abanye bathi kumele ngilobole onina,umbuzo ke,ngingamlobola yini umuntu ngingaqonde kwakha umuzi naye ngingasenabudlelwane naye ngenxa yokuthi nje ngifuna izingane zami zibize mina.

        • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

          Ingane ngokwesintu uma ungamthathi unina, uyayiliobola yona yodwa, bese beyenzela imbuzi yokuphuma nawe bese wenza imbuzi yokuyingenisa ekhaya. ana Akuyona inkomo eyodwa kuya nkuthi nixoxisana kanjani na. Ngakho zilobole lezo ngane. Incwadi Umsamo ichaza kabanzi ngalokhu uma ungayithola.

          • Ngunezi,ngiyabonga kakhulu,ngizoqonda esitolo ngiyothenga incwadi ukuze ngithole incazelo ephelele ngoba ngiyazifuna izingane zami.

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Fuze yes Umama uqinisile ukuthi izibizo zkulona iloblo. Ugodola imbizi enikezwa umama wentombi yembathisiswe, iyingxenye yelobolo nayo, ifika nobikibiki lokhu eesithi izibizo namuhla

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  4. This is the retrivial of the real african face with no knorrox or rajah added on to disturb transparency to see through the african heart.

    Phambili Mkhize!!!

  5. Firstly I’d like to thank you guys for opening this blog.the reason for me to thank you is that I’ve always had a wory ukuthi what will happen in 30 years from now? Because honestly thina intsha yanamuhla asisazi lutho ngezamalobolo (including me) but hopefull izinto sezizoshintsha because of you guys. umbuzo wamike mhleli usektheni.ingabe kuwubulungiswa yini lento esiyenziwa namahla ukuthi kulotsolwe ngemali eskhundleni sezinkomo? Uma ngabe kuwubulungiswa mhlawumbe ungathi kumele imali yelobolo ibengakanani isikuhlanganisa konke okthinta ilobolo?I really need to know this because ngidukuza esiswini senkomo okwangempela makuthintwa ezelobolo.

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Isimo ukuthi sesiphila esikhathini lapho kungasafuyiwe, noyise bamantombazane abasazifuni izinkomo ngoba akukhpo lapho bezzozibeka khona. Ngakho nakuba kuyimali kunzima ukuthi kuqoshwe ngqo ukuthi kube malini kodwa sizofuna indlela yokuyilwa leyo nohulumeni uma isikhathi sesifikile ukuthi kugcinbe kwenziwe njengalkhu kwenza uSomtsewu esibalweni sezinkomo.

  6. Mumbo, yinhle lento yokukhathalela isizwe ukuze sazi ngamasiko, nokutho asho ukuthini.

    • mvuleleni ngubane says:

      Igwansile le nkomazi yakho wena wako Mavovo. ake uphawule ngalomkhuba owenziwa izinsizwa eMabomvini, insizwa ihambise ubukhithikhithi kubo kwesixebe okuthiwa i-(thulama/ kududuzwa umama)

      • bhungu mbatha says:

        ngiyabonga mbomvu ngokuthinta lolu daba. Nami ngingowaseMabomvini nje kodwa ngiyayidinga ngempela incazelo ngalo (thula ma) mbumbulu ukuthi uchazani. vusa ukhamba Khabazela nanti iqatha lisibinda!!!

  7. ngiyabonga ngifunde okuningi ebekande ngingakwazi.Ngicela ukwazi ukuthi yini umehluko izibizo no bayene lapha abakwamkwenyana bayohlaba kwamakoti thina empumalang babiza bathi abayeni.

  8. asiye phambili ma Africa amahle, oka Khabazela useyiqalile indlela sekukuthina ukuba simelekelele noma simu yekelele. nikhumbule “izandla ziyagezana ma Africa amahle”. inkosi inibusise

  9. Sigwili Xaba says:

    Siyabonga ngakho konke nje ngizwa kungicacela konke ebengingakwazi nje

  10. Sigwili Xaba says:

    Ngicela ukwazi ukuthi ngingenza njani kuthiwa ngazalwa ngembethe ingubo yenhlanhla bayembela bayigqiba ngobb bengayaz manje ngingenza njan ukuyibuyisela nje ngiyabonga


    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      He can do everyting on his own. But your parents won’t be able to charge the full Lobolo. They can charge anything below 9 cows as you already have children.

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    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Uma ubaba wakho azaelwa ekhaya ungumlanjwana kanjanlo nawe uzolandela isibongo sakhe sobulanjwane, ngamanye amazwi sasekhabo mama wakhe, okungugogo kuwe. Ukuthi yena akashadanga akusho ukuthi wena bese ungashadi.

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  16. Sawubona Baba,

    Ngangishadile ngahlukanisa nomkhwnayana(he left) ngo 2008. Sathola abantwana ababili emshadweni. Manje ngithole umuntu ofuna ukungishada, manje abantu abaningi bakhuluma izinto eziningi ezihlukene naqondana nabantwana ukuthi kumele abakhokhele noma cha ngoba yena ufuna sihlale nabo. Engifisa ukukwazi ukuthi kumele kuphuke ziphi izinkomo ngoba senginabantwana, kumele akhokhe kanjani uma ekhokhela abantwana. ugogo akazi kahle angisenabo omalume umama uthatha izinto ezishiwo abantu mina ngifuna enze ngendlela


    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Ingane yasemshdweni ayilingi iguqule isibongo ngoba unina eseganela kwenye indawo. Uma umkhwenyana omusha efuna ukuthatha nezingane akakuthathe zibiza sona isibongo sakubo kayise. Okwesibili akufanele ukuthi akulobole kini kufanele ahambe ayokulobola emzini. Ngoba nahlukanisa usengakhipha nje ezimbalwa. Inkomo kamama Umhqoyiso, ekababa umumba azisekho. Bese zehla ngangane ngauyinye osuzithole lapho kade uganele khona.

      • Ngiyabonga kakhulu, kuzoba nzima ukubikele uMama lendaba ngoba uqinisekile ukuthi ulwazi lwakhe luright.

        Thank you so much.

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  20. Mina ngizalelwe ekhabo mama, nobaba wami ezalelwe ekhabonina and washona kunjalo. Ngafuna umndeni wase khabo baba from his fathers side ngawthola. Now sengiyaganwa and ngizoshada nomakoti ngaphansi kwase khabo mama, ngenze umsebenzi wokubonga komalume kuqedelwe nezikweletu ezasala kubaba, bese siyabika komalume ukuthi manje sengiphuma inxiwa ngiyo vusa umuzi kababa usbani bani…..abahambe nami baqhubeke nokungi singatha. Bese emzini wami ngakha indlu yabantabadala…lapho ngilolanda khona umfowabo mkhulu kababa ukuthi akazomisa umsamo wesibongo salapho kuzalwa khona ubaba ngqo, naye ubaba abikelwe alandwe angeniswe esbongweni sakubo emvakokuba bemkhiphele ihlawulo. Manje ke sizobe sonke ke nezingane zami nomakoti siyabikwa kulesisibongo sikababa. Ngicela ukubuza Prof ukuthi akuphambani lutho yini.

  21. Gcwabe nginenye inkinga, udadewethu omdala kimi wathola ingane komunye wesilisa owavele wakhala amaphepha esakhulelwe udadewethu,kuze kube manje ayaziwa lendoda nezihlobo zayo azaziwa nekubo alaziwa into esiyaziyo nje isibongo sendoda kuphela, isineminyaka engu 17, manje sifuna ukushintha lengane ibize isibongo sakithi,inkinga enkulu ukuthi nomama lodadewethu wayemthole komunye ubaba naye futhi owabaleka,ongaziwa nakubo, kshuthi nje ngingathi lento ibe wufuzo.udadewethu usabiza isibongo sikamama ingane yakhe ibize esalomlisa ongubaba wayo ongaziwa. ilungiswa kanjani lenkilakayitheka

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Ingane kufanele ibize isibongo sika nina, okuyisibongo sika Gogo njengalokhu naye engagananga.

  22. khabazela, umama nobaba abashadanga, ngingathi nje ubaba akakhokhanga lutho ekhakomama. siyisikhombisa(7) esizalwa kubaba nomama manje sinenkinga yokubangwa amadlozi. umama yena sewashona ubaba ukhona inkinga akamile kahle ngase phaketheni. manje besifisa ukunceda ubaba eyokhokha komalume sibashadise. umbuzo wami uthi kwenziwa njani uma kukhona osewashona senzela nje ukugcina usiko ukuze singabi nenkinga kusasa

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Kunzima uma umuntu esashona ngoba lokhu okwenziwayo ukuthi umuntu uyaloitsholwa esefile akukho esizulwini. Nina into eningayenza nikani ubaba imali ukuthi ahambe ayonilobola kumbe okwase kuphumele umama kuguqulwe kube amalobolo enu bese kukhishwa imbuzi nikhishqwe kanjalo nangapha futhi nenzelwe imbuzi yokwamukelwa.

  23. Mhlonishwa,ngicelukbuza uma ukhuleliswe intombazane esike yatolumtwana kwenyindawo unenhloso yokuylobola wenza njani uyahlawula besuyaqhubeka nokulobola?ingqhutu uyaykipa na?

  24. Khabazela, ngiding usizo la, uma kushone umuntu ongumama wekhaya imbuzi le okugezwa ngayo kuphoqelekile yini ukuthi yenziwe(ihlatshwe), emva kwesikhathi esingakanani(usuku,amasonto, noma izinyanga)nanokuthi isiphi iskhathi lapho kusuke seku late kakhulu ukuthi ungenza lowomsebenzi.
    Umbuzo wami wesibili uthi uma ulobole izingane zakho kumuntu ogcine ungashadanga naye, lezingane omfice nazo uma unesifiso sokuhlala nazo ngenxa yokuthi yena usedlulile emhlabeni, kumele zibize siphi isibongo, esami noma esikanina wazo ngenxa yokuthi ubaba wazo naye akasekho?

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Inbuzi yomgezo ihlatshwa mhla kushoniwe kugezwe abantu abebekade besemathuneni. Emva kwalokho bese kugeza umndeni emva kwenyanga nakhona ngembuzi futhi. Okwezingane ezolotsholiwe, ezakho ezibiza isibongo sakho kodwa afioka nazo sisala nesakhe unina, hayi esakho, wena awunakuzilobola.

  25. Gcwabe ngidlulisa ukubonga kakhulu ngale ngosi yakho owasivulela yona, uhlelo lwakho luyasakha kakhulu thina esisebancane ikakhulukazi mina siqu sami kuningi esengiku zuze kuwe kulengosi. ngithi nje oKhabazela bekugcine uphile siyabadinga kakhulu abantu abafana nawe. AKWANDE!!!!!!

  26. Khabazela, nginombuzo la, kwenziwa njani umangabe ubaba engashadanga nomama futhi akasihlawulanga kodwa sihlala nabo bobabili ekhaya.ubaba ungumuntu onganaki noma ngingathi nje ongenandaba, ngina27 weminyaka manje. Manje izinto azisihambeli kahle thina bantwana kuthiwa sibangwa ngabadala sengize ngaya ezinhlanyeni zithi kumele ngiyohlab imbuzi ekhaya komama ngicele inhlahla ukuze mangithol umsebenzi ngikwazi nokulekelela ubaba alungise zonke lezinkinga. manje ubaba uthi kumele ngiyohlaba nasekhaya(kubo)mangiqeda ekhaya komama ngodecember. iyenzeka yini leyonto ukuthi umuntu ahlabe nasekhaya kubo lapho angakhokhelwanga khona? uma kwenzeka, ngiyakwazi yini ukufaka zombili iziphandla ngeskhathi esisodwa? esasekhakomama ngisfaka kusiphi isandla, esakithi sona ngisfaka kusiphi? ngiyobonga uma ungangisiza.

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Uma ubaba nomama berngashadanga kusho ukiuthi wena ungumlannjwana ubiza isibongo sakubo kamama ngakho-ke akukho ongakwenza ngoba ngeke uthathe amacala abazali bakho. Sebenzisa isibongo sikamama bese futhi wenzelwa imbeleko yakhona.

  27. Prof. ngishonelwe ngumama wami ngenyang edlule mhlaka 22October, manje inkinga yami kusukel eshonile sengimphuphe kwaze kwakathathu efika sengathi ungumuntu ophilayo ngoba bengimphupha elele embhedeni lo abelele kuwo ngeskhathi egula kodwa enyakaza kungathi uyaphenduka. sekuze kwaba kathathu yenzeka lento manje ngithe mangicabangisisa ngabona ukuthi inhloso yephupho ukumveza njengomuntu ophilayo okungenza ngisole ukuthi uthwetshuliwe kwase kuhlangana nokwazi ukuthi ekuguleni kwakhe kukhona umuntu osolakele. manje iyangidla lento ngoba ngiyasaba ukuyibika kwabadala kanti mhlambe sekuzi nsolo nje ezingasho lutho kodwa manje iphupho lilokhu lingibelesele. ichaza ukuthini into enje?

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Kukhona akufunayo, kumbe wathwetshulwa. Shisa impepho ukhulume ukuthi akasho ukiuthi kwenzenjani, akukusho lokho afuna ukuthi akukhulume.

  28. Ngibonge impendulo engenhla Khabazela, manje mayelana nomazisi wami, isitifiketi sika-matric nedriver’s licence konke kubiza isibongo sakithi kwaMTHETHWA, engabe kumele ngikushintshe konke kubize esasekhakomama noma ngilinde yena ubaba eze eyilungise lenkinga?

    • Prof. V. Mkhize says:

      Lokho kuyabhekelelwa kamuva inqobio nje uma ulangazelele indlela eyaphambili akukho kwakuvimba.