A little over a year ago, I attended lobola negotiations between two families in Thokoza. The talks were tense and difficult and went on all morning. It was a scorching day to boot, and we all perspired in the suits we wore for the occasion. Sweat-stained handkerchiefs mopped damp brows. Eventually, after more than four hours, an amount was agreed upon and a celebratory lunch commenced. Six months later, the bridegroom was dead. I found out by accident. I had only attended the negotiations because I happened to have an appointment that morning with the bridegroom’s uncle; he was roped into the talks at the last moment and so he brought me along. Now, when I mentioned the negotiations in passing, he told me that his nephew had died just the previous week. I tried to find out what had happened. Families are reluctant to talk frankly about these things. I was told vague and confusing stories. He had kidney failure. He might have lived if a better doctor had been on duty at the hospital...

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