Vhavenda princess vows to defeat incumbent king in court

2017-08-13 06:00
Princess Masindi Mphephu. Picture: Wikus de Wet

Princess Masindi Mphephu. Picture: Wikus de Wet

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Princess Masindi Mphephu, the 25-year-old daughter of the late Vhavenda paramount chief Tshimangadzo Dimbanyika Mphephu, has promised to go all the way to the Constitutional Court in a bid to wrestle the kingship from her uncle.

Although she has been entangled in a legal battle with her father’s half-brother and incumbent king, Toni Ramabulana Mphephu, for the past five years, Mphephu said she was not ready to give up.

“It was tough in the beginning, but I got used to it. It has been emotionally draining, but I believe it is a phase that will pass,” Mphephu told City Press this week.

“I am fighting for the throne, which is rightfully mine, and I’m prepared to go all the way to the end,” she said.

A battle of sex

Mphephu has already been met with several unsuccessful court bids. In court papers, she has accused the incumbent king of “usurping” the position of king after he was inaugurated as regent of the Vhavenda in 1998.

The matter has now moved from the Limpopo High Court to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein.

Mphephu hopes the SCA will grant her leave to appeal the judgment that dismissed her applications in May this year.

Last September, she recorded a victory when she successfully got the court to halt President Jacob Zuma’s plans to crown her uncle, pending the outcome of the ongoing court battle.

It could take up to two months before the SCA makes a decision regarding her petition. She said that, if the outcome at the SCA was negative, she was prepared to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

Mphephu’s father died in a car accident in December 1997 – he had reigned since 1994.

She told City Press that all she wanted was for her uncle to “give me what rightfully belongs to me”, which is the position to lead the Vhavenda.

Mphephu stated in her founding affidavit to the SCA that she was appealing to have a judgment by Judge Ephraim Makgoba “declared invalid”, particularly “the customary law rule of male primogeniture to the extent that it precludes women from succeeding to the position of traditional leader”.

The princess also wanted the SCA to “review and set aside the decision of Mphephu Ramabulana Royal Family Council and President Jacob Zuma that purported to identify and recognise Toni Ramabulana Mphephu as the king...”

She said she did not acknowledge that the royal family council was “a body that exists lawfully under Vhavenda customary law”.

On the point of her being barred from being the queen on the grounds of the “customary law rule of male primogeniture”, Mphephu cited minutes from an August 2010 meeting where she said the royal family council identified Toni Ramabulana Mphephu as the rightful person for the throne on grounds of gender.

“The minutes record the chairperson of the meeting advising all those present that, ‘in our family/nation, a woman does not reign’,” she wrote in her affidavit.

The incumbent king’s legal team has always denied the claim of gender discrimination against Mphephu, citing Makhadzi Phophi, a woman from the royal family who has been a regent for a king before and is currently a traditional leader in one of the Mphephu Ramabulana areas.

Mphephu argued that “this fact does not evidence the community’s abolition of the rule of male primogeniture”, which she said had infringed on her right “to equality”.

Paul Makhavhu, legal council for the royal family, did not want to entertain any of the issues raised by Mphephu, saying the case was still in the hands of the courts.

“We cannot comment on this issue as we respect the processes of the court of law. We also cannot communicate with Mphephu via the media ... If she wants to talk to the family, she knows the right thing to do,” he said.

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