Left: Khotsimunene Vho-Japan Mphephu, who is accused of destabilising the Ramabulana family. Photo: Elmon Tshikhudo. Right: Khotsimunene Vhotshimangadzo Toni Ramabulana, who is accusing Khotsimunene Vho-Japan of being a dictator who is destroying the Ramabulana royal family. Photo supplied.
No peace reigns within the Vhavenda royal family, and the chances of the members all enjoying a friendly Christmas meal around the same table are beyond slim. The past week, a war of words erupted again, following the “removal” of Thovhele Mavis Masala Mphephu.
Three weeks ago, Limpopo Mirror reported that the Ramabulana family had announced that Thovhele Mavis, the senior traditional leader in Dzanani, had been relieved of her duties by the Ramabulana family. In a letter sent to Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha, he is informed of the resolutions taken during a meeting of the royal family.
Among the reasons advanced for her removal is that she was erroneously identified as a traditional leader and was appointed by Khotsimunene, which is against the Masingo a ha Mphephu-Ramabulana tradition that a king, senior traditional leader, headman, or headwoman must be identified by a khadzi. In this case, they argue, she was supposed to have been identified by the senior khadzi, Vho Phophi Ramabulana.
The letter states that, while the process leading to her being relieved of her duties is pending, her salary and any other benefits should be suspended immediately. At the time, Thovhele Mphephu did not respond or comment on the issue.
On Tuesday, 12 December, the chairperson of the Dzanani Traditional Council, Vhokhotsimunene Vhotshimangadzo Toni Ramabulana, launched a scathing attack on Vhokhotsimunene David Mphephu (Vho-Japan), whom he described as a self-imposed dictator.
During an interview with Ramabulana at his home in Hamatsa, he said that the intention to remove Thovhele Mavis Mphephu would not succeed as things had not been done procedurally and with good intentions. “Firstly, I am not here to defend Thovhele Mphephu or to say she is the rightful person to occupy the throne. What I am saying is that the whole process of firing her will backfire and not succeed. Mphephu was installed after a consensus was reached by a duly constituted royal family meeting. What surprises us now is that a cabal, led by Vho-Japan, that calls itself the ‘Ramabulana Royal Family’ wants to dictate things in the royal family. This ‘Royal Family’ is a parallel structure formed by Vho-Japan, his sisters, and a few other individuals, to undermine Thovhele Mphephu’s rule. We question the legitimacy of this body as other Ramabulana houses are not represented,” he said.
According to Ramabulana, Thovhele Mphephu was installed as a Thovhele at Dzanani in 2016, after a vacuum was left when Toni Mphephu was elevated to the position of King, which was endorsed by the then State President Jacob Zuma. “It is now clear that Thovhele Mphephu was installed by a particular group that had a hidden agenda to use her as an instrument for sinister activities. The project backfired as Mphephu is mature enough and knows her rights and the benefits due to her that were being sidelined from her for the cabal’s benefit. Now that she is no longer toeing their line, they want her out. Vho-Japan has taken over control at Dzanani and instigated all, including chiefs and staff at the traditional council, to revolt against Mphephu. He has taken over the palace, while Thovhele Mphephu does not even have a place to host visitors.”
Ramabulana further accused Vho-Japan of creating animosity among the family members. “What he is doing to our Thovhele is not an insult to her alone but also to the throne. The Vhavenda people do not have a king as we speak because of him and his cabal. Since he imposed himself as leader, nothing has gone right. He is not even close or connected to zwitungulo (traditional instruments for chieftainship rituals). Without these, no one can succeed in issues of chieftainship. This is not politics, but issues of spirituality,” said Ramabulana.
He added that, during Vho-Japan’s reign, the family was dragged in and out of court and had requested time after time to solve their issues internally. “The decisions he makes are always backfiring and bring the whole Vhavenda nation into disrepute. We have serious doubts about him,” he said.
Ramabulana added that Vho-Japan had unsuccessfully tried to install Vhamusanda Vho Jeffrey Mukondeleli Mphephu Ramabulana as senior traditional leader of Songozwi in August this year, in the presence of Thovhele Mphephu. “We are just happy that the community of Songozwi stood together and prevented that from happening. He does not have the power to do so. The family must stand up and fix things before it is too late. Vho-Japan is not our leader. He declared himself the regent king but failed. Whatever he will do, there will be no positive outcome. The issue of kingship failed with all the financial muscle and political influence they had. The sooner things are done correctly, the better. The kingship issues of the Ramabulana should not be contested in court. We always have wise people in the family who can give guidance on such issues,” Ramabulana concluded.
Asked to comment on the allegations, a fuming Vho-Japan hit back, saying: “Who is he [Ramabulana] to say this? What is his role in the family? All he is saying is lies without substance. We know what he is after. He is only after the chieftainship position at Luvhalani, which he will not get. If he has issues with me, tell him to come straight to me and we will solve the issues,” he said.
Date:15 December 2023
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and was a permanent part of the news team until 2019.