Government is on the path to restore the traditional kingdom of the VhaVenda people, which collapsed under apartheid and colonial rule, said Cooperative Governance Deputy Minister Obed Bapela.
Bapela said this when unveiling plans for the coronation of VhaVenda King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana, who was endorsed king by President Jacob Zuma four years ago.
According to government’s plan, Mphephu’s kingdom status would officially be restored next month.
The VhaVenda people, who are descended from ancient Ethiopia, by some historical accounts, have been without a king since their kingdom was demolished by apartheid and colonial rulers over a decade ago.
Since 1998, the kingdom was reduced to paramount chief status and was rejected and eliminated by the apartheid government, which disregarded its aboriginal tradition and status.
Mphephu was endorsed in 2010 after the recommendations from the Nhlapo Commission.
However, it was contested and disputed by some.
“The coronation marks a restoration of the VhaVenda kingship following an extensive work done by the commission on traditional leadership and dispute known as [the] Nhlapo Commission,” said Bapela.
The Nhlapo Commission was constituted to solve senior traditional leadership and kingship status in the country. Part of its mandate was to uncover which clan was unfairly stripped of its kingship and queenship status in society.
Bapela said the VhaVenda kingdom suffered from this unfair stripping of their kingship status, as it was also reduced to a paramount chief status.
He said the coloniser only recognised one king, King George, and others were called paramount chiefs.
“The word chief does not have any historic meaning to the history of our society,” he added.
A coronation is a ceremony that marks the formal investiture of a monarch, and their consort with regal power, usually involving the ritual placement of a crown upon the destined king’s head.
Bapela said the coronation, which was scheduled for September 9, would also see Mphephu take a legal oath of his office.
Bapela slammed the South African media for disregarding the status of the kingship, saying the media seemed to offer respect and coverage to the King of England rather than to their local leaders.
“It’s because it was distorted, destroyed and we are now on the basis of restoring it, and if we work together, particularly the media, we can go a long way in restoring it this customary activity,” said Bapela.
The VhaVenda kingdom is part of three kingdoms in the Limpopo province, including King Sekhukhune and the Modjaji. Bapela said the Sekhukhune kingdom was still faced with an internal legal battle and the Modjadji were yet to coronate their queen. The Modjaji is currently under the regent of Mpapatla Modjadji.
The Tsonga failed to have their king in South Africa recognised, as authorities believed that their kingdom, like those of the Swati people and the Basotho, remained in Mozambique and Swaziland respectively.
VhaVenda kingdom spokesperson Jackson Mafunzwaini thanked government for restoring the Venda kingdom’s status.
He said the dispute by Masindi and the Vhangona clan had nothing to with the business of coronation.
– African News Agency (ANA)