Game of thrones

2016-09-04 06:00
King Toni Mphephu who has been interdicted. Picture: Silas Nduvheni

King Toni Mphephu who has been interdicted. Picture: Silas Nduvheni

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Thohoyandou - Just like the story line in the Venda television soapie Muvhango, which means “conflict”, the fierce battle over the VhaVenda crown is far from over.

It is now one round each after 25-year-old Masindi Mphephu successfully halted the planned coronation of her uncle and incumbent VhaVenda king, Toni Mphephu Ramabulana, in the Thohoyandou High Court on Friday.

The first round was won by Mphephu Ramabulana when President Jacob Zuma recognised him as VhaVenda king in 2012.

The next and final episode will see the two royals lock horns in another legal battle where the court will hear Masindi’s bid to have her uncle dethroned and herself declared the rightful heir to the throne of the VhaVenda kingdom.

Her father, Dimbanyika Tshimangadzo Ramabulana, who was Mphephu Ramabulana’s half-brother, ruled over the VhaVenda from 1993 until he lost his life in a car accident in 1997. Masindi is reportedly his only child.

While the matter has not yet been scheduled to be heard, it remains to be seen whether any court outcome will provide closure to the royal conflict. Masindi has been challenging her uncle for the throne since 2012.

Judge Khami Makhafola decided on Friday to grant the princess’ application to have the planned traditional coronation of her uncle interdicted. However, this will not affect the latter’s position. He continues to be the king until the court rules otherwise.

The youthful Masindi decided to challenge and stop the coronation plans that would have seen Zuma officially awarding Mphephu Ramabulana a recognition certificate as VhaVenda king. Now the event will only take place after courts have finalised the matter.

If Masindi wins, this could see the VhaVenda people being ruled by a woman for the first time in its history.

Masindi argued that she was being overlooked for the crown because she was young and a woman.

On Friday, Masindi’s lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu SC, accused Zuma and his administration of “abuse of power” and questioned the government’s decision to crown Mphephu Ramabulana while there was a pending court case over the crown.

He said the president acted “unlawfully” when he gave Mphephu Ramabulana statutory recognition in 2012.

Zuma recognised Mphephu Ramabulana as the king following determinations by the Nhlapo Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims, which looked into traditional leadership disputes and claims around the country.

Mpofu said Zuma’s intention to publicly award Mphephu Ramabulana a recognition certificate suggested that he was taking sides by not waiting for the court to decide.

Mpofu also indicated in court that government had chosen not to oppose Masindi’s application and had undertaken to abide by the court’s decision.

Mpofu, who is also the national chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters, at times sounded like a politician while submitting his case in court.

“These are people with powers who are saying, we’re going to have our ceremony [coronation], what can you do about it? They will bring 100 cars, spend our money and have a razzmatazz because ‘we’re the boss’,” Mpofu said.

In his response in court, the king’s attorney, Advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, said the coronation was only a “celebratory event of a right already conferred” to the incumbent king.

“Why interdict only the coronation? [Masindi] won’t suffer any irreparable harm if the application is not granted,” he argued.

Semenya said Mphephu Ramabulana could always be dethroned and Masindi crowned later, depending on the court’s ultimate decision.

Judge Makhofola’s decision brought joy to Masindi’s other uncle Mbulaheni Charles Mphephu, who believes his niece is the rightful heir to the crown, followed by himself. This was part of the papers for the pending court case over the crown.

Masindi was not in court yesterday. However, Mbulaheni Mphephu said he was happy at the prospect that Masindi would “get her birthright”.

“They tried to undermine the Constitution, because Masindi is a woman and we don’t have resources to fight, but we’re royalty.

“I don’t remember any king who has ascended the throne without a fight and, while it is difficult, we’ll fight on,” he said.

Mphephu Ramabulana’s special adviser, Jackson Mafunzwaini, put on a brave face during his short address to the media after the court’s ruling, as many of the king’s supporters walked out of the courtroom disappointed.

“We respect the decision of the court and we will wait until the application [dealing with Masindi’s challenge over the crown] is reviewed. We will inform everyone that the coronation has been postponed until further notice,” he said.

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