The Mphephu-Ramabulana Royal Family Council says it has accepted the decision by Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to set aside former president Jacob Zuma’s decision to install Toni Mphephu Ramabulana as the acting king of Vhavenda and would not be taking the kingship battle to the courts any further.
Spokesperson for the council Ntsieni Ramabulana told The Sowetan: “Our view is that the matter does not belong to the court of law. As the royal family, we have accepted the decision of the court and subsequently go and re-look the matter.”
Princess Masindi Mphephu had approached the High Court sitting in Thohoyandou for an interdict to stop the coronation of her uncle Toni, which she was later granted pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Masindi, the princess of the Mphephu royal family, dragged then South African president Zuma and Toni to court, claiming she was the rightful heir to the Vhavenda throne.
The high court accepted representations by Masindi’s legal team that the coronation be halted until a pending legal review on the Mphephu dynasty status.
The court heard that Masindi believed she was overlooked for the throne because of a cultural practice that endorsed only males for kingship.
Government, in consultation with the Vhavenda royal family, then announced the postponement of the planned coronation until all the legal issues had been addressed and concluded.
At the time, Mphephu royal family adviser and spokesperson Jackson Mafunzwaini insisted that Toni was the rightful leader of Vhavenda.
The dispute arose after the kingdom was endorsed by Zuma following the Nhlapo Commission being tasked with investigating chieftaincy, queenship, and kingship disputes. This concluded that the Mphephus were the correct family to ascend the throne.
The SCA said in its April ruling that the decision to recognise Toni as the rightful king “promotes gender discrimination”.
The ruling read: “It is declared that the decision of the eighth respondent of 14 August 2010 to identify the first respondent as a suitable person to be appointed as the King of the Vhavenda Traditional Community is unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid and is renewed and set aside.
“It declared that the decisions of the eighth respondent to identify and that of the second respondent to recognise the first respondent as King of Vhavenda are based on a criteria [sic] that promotes gender discrimination, and are reviewed and set aside in that the discrimination impedes compliance with the provisions of section 2A(4)(c) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act 23 of 2009, to progressively advance gender representation in the succession to the position of King or Queen of Vhavenda.”