Remembering the king who cared for the people

By Groovin Nchabeleng

Johannesburg – He gave the Bapedi nation a futuristic perspective in just eight months.

The second wave of the Coronavirus, pretty much like the first, has continued to give us a blow by blow of death – indiscriminately taking young and old, prominent and unknown, showing no preference as originally feared. For many of us, it has been a scary affair to hear of so many deaths, but it becomes real, surreal, if not scary, when it hits somebody you know personally.


And so, it was one of those blows when we woke up to the news of the passing of yet another South African, a prominent figure even, in the person of the Bapedi nation king, His Majesty King Thulare Victor Thulare III “Bauba a Hlabirwa”, who succumbed to Covid-19 at age 40.

King Thulare was recognised a mere eight months ago, and received his kingship certificate from Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela, following a landmark Constitutional Court judgment and pronouncement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that ended a 30-year legal dispute and removed the kingship from his predecessor and uncle, “KK”. While the jury has been out in certain circles about the role of kingships in modern- day South Africa, the praise King Thulare attracted in a mere eight months of kingship not only speaks to his talents and unwavering commitment to helping his people in Sekhukhuneland but, most importantly, makes a valid case for the important role traditional kingships can and continue to play in our nation.

Royal House of Thulare

His path to kingship was not a glossy one, it was lined with 45 years of hardships and battles that his father Rhyne Thulare – King Sekhukhune III (who passed on in 2007) endured until the logical conclusion by the Nhlapo Commission that the kingship of Bapedi nation belongs to the Royal House of Thulare.

However, court battles ensued challenging the Nhlapo Commission findings and recommendations until the March 4 2020 when the Constitutional Court ruled that King Thulare III is the rightful heir to the throne and that the kingship belongs to the Royal House of Thulare. Subsequent to this ruling, Ramaphosa proclaimed Thulare III as the King of Bapedi nation on March 24 2020 and a kingship certificate was issued on April 1 2020.

Just like his forebear and namesake, King Thulare I (reigned 1790-1824), His Majesty’s quest was the unification of Bapedi nation. To this end, he wasted no time in pressing on the messages of unifying all traditional leaders and headmen of Bapedi royal lineage within Limpopo and beyond. King Thulare III was a strong, courageous and developmental figure, a unifying figure and a patriot.

He will be sadly missed for his passion for education and his heightened sense of enquiry about Bapedi heritage, making him a favourable audience for heritage enthusiasts of all ages. Tšate Heritage Site (the Valley of Kings) was a passion of his.

He made a commitment to build a befitting museum in honour of his great-grandfather and predecessor, King Sekhukhune I, as well as the history of Bapedi kingship and heritage. His vision was to place Tšate Heritage Site as the biggest tourism drawcard in Limpopo. He had very strong views about preservation of the Bapedi heritage hence he adopted the yellow arum lily genome that is endemic to Mohlake Valley on the summit of Leolo Mountain in honour of his mighty nation by naming it the Bapedi ancestral flower.

The flower was among the most visible of his passions as he participated in the planting ceremonies of the flower across South Africa, including the further declaration of the flower as a token of commitment to end gender-based violence during the planting ceremony at Freedom Park Heritage Site in Pretoria.

He was a man of clarity in whatever he believed in. He was not just a king for himself, he was a king of all Bapedi as he spent most of his working days receiving presentations, representations and ideas from the brightest minds in the Bapedi nation. His grand vision was that of “Dubai in Sekhukhuneland”.

Rich mineral resources

Based on his view that Sekhukhuneland is blessed with rich mineral resources, his vision was to build a resilient city whose prospects would outlast the mineral wealth.

He had started with a master plan that integrates developmental, social, residential, business and education advancement of his kingdom. This masterplan would feed into the district model championed by Ramaphosa, making Sekhukhune district municipality and mining companies major role players.

To achieve this ambitious plan, His Majesty appointed a panel of advisers such as Ben Mphahlele in the economy and infrastructure development portfolio, Groovin Nchabeleng to handle inter-governmental aspects, paternal uncle Phaahla to advise on traditional affairs and prince Phatudi on the kingdom’s administration. Among captains of industry that he shared his plans with were Natascha Viljoen, the CEO of Anglo American Platinum.

They explored areas such as unlocking the challenges relating to uplifting communities and sustainable conditions of stability and productivity.

Hydo-economy development

Lepelle Northern Water, led by chairman of the board Tirani Joe Mathebula, Glencore and Impala Platinum were among corporate partners that would play a bigger role in the envisaged hydo-economy development in Sekhukhune.

His Majesty was the proponent of these high-level discussions. Against all odds he stood firm in ensuring that the royal house of Marota continues to be a united dynasty. He was committed to nation-building and uplifting the poor and marginalised communities that, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, he went all out to conduct outreaches such as delivering food parcels in the communities within the kingdom.

He reached out to various kings in an effort to unify and revive historic and ancestral friendships with progressive kingdoms such as King Mabhena, King Mphephu whom the Bapedi regard as blood relative through Thobela, the son of Kabu who settled there after royal disputes with his brother Thobejane.

King Thulare Victor Thulare III earned everyone’s respect. And now, as he joins the gallant ancestry of the Bapedi kings of the Marota empire lineage, we believe he will continue to be an ambassador of the unity and cohesion of Bapedi nation. “Lerumo la Mogale ga leswe le mphato [We shall carry your fallen spear forth]. Robala ka khutšo Bauba a Hlabirwa!”

Nchabeleng is an award-winning South African advertising and marketing guru with more than 25 years industry experience.

Groovin Nchabeleng.

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