Battle royale hits Limpopo royals

2012-09-29 19:26

It’s a tale of snubbed wedding and funeral invitations, and lucrative mining rights. Now tension is mounting in a Limpopo district after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria decided on the rightful king of the Bapedi.

After a four-year legal battle, the court ruled last week that Kgoshi Victor Thulare of the Sekhukhune family was the rightful king, and not Kgoshi Mampuru Mampuru III, who leads the rival Mamone family.

The court effectively upheld the decision by the Nhlapho Commission, which was established in 2004 to decide on royal disputes.

Its preliminary report found that the Bapedi kingship could be traced to Sekhukhune’s lineage – a decision that sent the Mamones rushing to court.

The Mamones are still not admitting defeat, however. Family spokesperson Prince Seraki Mampuru said they were ready to lodge an application for leave to appeal the decision he slammed as “pure madness”.

He said: “We are prepared to go all the way to the Constitutional Court. We cannot allow a situation whereby our kingship is taken by a junior family.”

Mampuru said the relationship between the Mamones and the Sekhukhunes was now at an all-time low. “When there is a funeral or wedding they invite us and we go, but they don’t come to us. We don’t care, but we can’t sacrifice the seniority of the Bapedi,” he said.

The two families are not at each other’s throats for nothing, as the stakes are significant.

Not only will the winner be recognised as king, he will get an annual budget from the provincial government, like other South African royalty.

But even more lucrative are the vast platinum deposits in the Sekhukhune region, and the more than 20 mines in which the winner will become an immediate shareholder.

“This whole thing is about the mines,” said Mampuru, claiming that Thulare had already applied for prospecting rights on a number of farms.

However, Kgoshi Thulare’s spokesperson Morolwane Mampuru said: “The whole Bapedi tribe was excited about the judgment. The courts brought the matter to an end.

“The government must now issue a certificate that Kgoshi Thulare is the right king.”

He said his people were “now going to get our land rights back for which our forefather, Sekhukhune, fought with the Boers and the British”.

“The money and the land will be for the nation,” he said.

According to court papers, both families agreed that Thulare I was the first king of the Bapedi, and that he was succeeded by Malekutu I, who died without an heir.

Sekwati I then took over as regent.

But from then on they have differing versions of history.

The Mamones claim their lineage from Mampuru II, the first son of Sekwati’s second wife, whom they claim he married for the sole purpose of bearing an heir for Malekutu I.

The Sekhukhunes trace their lineage from Sekhukhune I, the son of Sekwati’s first wife, who later usurped the throne in a coup from Mampuru II, who had assumed the kingship after Sekwati’s death.

Mampuru fled following the coup but returned with his supporters and killed Sekhukhune I.

Mampuru II was hanged for the murder in Pretoria in 1885.

The Sekhukhunes, however, say there is no way Mampuru could have been Sekwati’s son because he was too old when Mampuru was conceived.

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