Battle for the soul of the Vha-Venda nation is far from over

The Limpopo High Court has dismissed an application that sought to see members of the Rafura family rule the Vha-Venda nation.

On Monday, the family made a last-minute application in the high court sitting in Polokwane, claiming to be the legitimate family to rule the nation.

However, Limpopo High Court Judge President Moletje George Phatudi dismissed the application with costs.

Phatudi denounced the ill-preparedness of the legal counsel representing the Rafura family, citing that their case had no legal standing.

Trial and tribulations are far from over

The judgment means trials and tribulations in the Vha-Venda royal house seem far from over as they struggle to find a suitable heir to the throne.

Following the dethroning of KhosiKhulu Toni Mphephu Ramabulana over a decade ago, the Vha-Venda nation has been without a legitimate king or queen.

The royal dispute has resulted in protracted legal battles.

Ntsieni Ramabulana, the spokesperson for the Mphephu Ramabulana royal council, said the royal household did not recognise the Rafura family and that their intentions to cause further tensions were not acceptable.

“From the onset, when the judge started reading their case, it was clear that their intentions were frivolous and time-wasting,” said Ntsieni.

“It was a half-baked story that no one could listen to. Their papers were not in order, and the chronology of their family tree was just confusing.

“We welcome the dismissal of their application, and now we can move on with the serious matter of resolving these issues relating to the kingship.”

Ousted Princess Masindi

At the centre of the battle is the ousted Ramabulana and pretender to the throne, Princess Masindi, the daughter of the late Vha-Venda King Tshimangadzo Dimbanyika Mphephu Ramabulana, who died in a car accident in 1997.


With no legitimate candidate to ascend the throne at the moment, the Vha-Venda royal council is now toying with the idea of having a candle wife who will bear them a legitimate traditional leader.

Known as mufumakadzi wa tsekiso in Tshivenda, this tradition is steeped in many African cultures, and myriad royal houses on the continent have embraced this practice.

Advocate Alon Dodson, who was representing Masindi during the Polokwane sitting, cited that the dispute over the kingship can be settled through customary law if all the warring factions in the royal clan are in congruence.

“The idea of selecting a candle wife can be the proper way to settle this long-standing dispute,” said Dodson.

“However, this could take many years because, at the moment, a leader is urgently needed to lead all the traditional leaders and villages that fall under the Vha-Venda kingship.

“The notion of marrying a candle wife through customary law is constitutional and has a strong legal and constitutional standing in this matter.”

Frustrating litigation

The Vha-Venda kingship battle started just after the controversial 2012 decision by former president Jacob Zuma to recognise Toni as the new king of the Vhavenda.

Masindi, the potential heir to the throne, filed review applications in the high court the same year. It became the springboard for frustrating litigation over many years.

After the princess successfully challenged her uncle Toni in the Constitutional Court, the throne became vacant as the apex court ordered the incumbent to step down.

Apparently, neither Toni nor Masindi’s mothers were candle wives, a situation that prevents them from being king or queen, according to the Vha-Venda culture.

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