Prince Lekukela Modjadji ascends to Balobedu royal family throne - instead of his sister Masalanabo

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A 13-year-old Masalanabo Modjadji during the Motsepe Foundation national day of prayer on 25 November 2018 in Johannesburg.
A 13-year-old Masalanabo Modjadji during the Motsepe Foundation national day of prayer on 25 November 2018 in Johannesburg.
PHOTO: Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images
  • In a surprise move, the Balobedu Royal Council has appointed Lekukela Modjadji, the son of late Rain Queen Makobo Modjadji, as king of the Balobedu nation.
  • His sister, Masalanabo, was expected to take over the queenship in two years.
  • His appointment has shocked many in the Limpopo tribe.


Prince Lekukela Modjadji, the son of the late Rain Queen Makobo Modjadji, has been appointed king of the Balobedu nation, 16 years after her death.

The government recognised the Balobedu queenship in 2016, paving the way for his 16-year-old sister, Masalanabo, to become Rain Queen VII.

His appointment shocked many in the Limpopo tribe who expected Masalanabo to ascend to the throne at the age of 18.

The heir to the Balobedu throne has been matrilineal and all heirs are referred to as rain queens.

The queenship dates back to the 1800s, when Maselekwane became queen and ruled the Limpopo tribe between 1800 and 1854.

In an announcement on Friday, which was written in the Khelobedu language, the Balobedu Royal Council said Masalanabo would become khadi-kholo (great aunt) in the Balobedu royal family.

READ | Speaking out: Modjadji royal family calls for Khelobedu to be SA's 12th official language

In 2016, former president Jacob Zuma officially recognised the Balobedu as the first queenship in the country, after the apartheid government relegated them to chieftaincy in 1972.

Masalanabo, then aged 11, was expected to take over after her mother and become Queen Modjadji the 7th, immediately after turning 18. A ceremony to celebrate her queenship was officially held in 2018 and President Cyril Ramaphosa was one of the dignitaries.

Following a custody battle between the Balobedu and Masalanabo's father, who had reportedly taken her away immediately after her mother's death in 2005, ANC MP Mathole Motshekga intervened in the dispute and was granted temporary custody of the child by the Randburg Magistrate's Court. Motshekga was once an advisor to the Balobedu royal council.

READ | It's education first for Queen Modjadji 'because the world is modern'

Masalanabo has since been attending school and living with the Motshekga family in Gauteng. The teenager visits her royal home during school holidays to learn the customs and practices as the designated "rainmaker" of the Balobedu.

Mpapatla Bakhoma Modjadji has been the regent since the queen's death 16 years ago.

Lekukela will be inaugurated in October 2022, according to the royal council.


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