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Johannesburg - All hail to the king of the vhaVenda monarchy. In the midst of a joyous celebration at the weekend, Khosikhulu Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana entered his royal palace as a triumphant warrior from a protracted court battle.
The king’s Dzanani village, in the Nzhelele area of Limpopo, was abuzz with jubilant activity.
His subjects ululated and danced to drum beats and the harmonious melody of dzinanga, the traditional dance group that blows homemade flutes.
A combination of perfect weather and the serenity of the majestic Soutpansberg Mountain surrounding the royal village, seemed to enhance the euphoric mood.
Buoyed by this month’s Pretoria High Court ruling that upheld him as the king of the vhaVenda people, Mphephu-Ramabulana returned to his people as the last man standing.
The king’s grand entrance exhibited opulence and the lavish lifestyle befitting royalty, arriving in a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
A fleet of expensive vehicles, including a Porsche Cayenne and Panamera, a convertible Ferrari California and Range Rovers, formed part of his long convoy.
As part of tradition, semi-naked maidens prostrated themselves on the ground as a sign of reverence to the king.
After a bruising court battle that ran for two years, Mphephu-Ramabulana celebrated victory over three local chiefs - Kennedy Tshivhase, Musiiwa Gole Mphaphuli and Tshidziwelele Nephawe - who had gone to the high court to challenge his kingship.
They disputed the findings of the Nhlapo Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims established by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2004.
President Jacob Zuma announced its findings in July 2010, stating that Mphephu-Ramabulana was the rightful heir to the throne.
The 40-year-old king is the son of Chief Patrick Mphephu, the late president of the former Venda bantustan. But the three chiefs disputed his kingship.
However, Judge Francis Legodi upheld the commission’s findings and dismissed their review application with costs.
Nephawe, of the Vhangona clan, argued in court papers that he was the great-grandson of King Tshidziwelele III, who was assassinated between 1759 and 1800.
He said that Mphephu-Ramabulana’s Masingo clan arrived in the 1750s, after his clan had already settled in the area.
On Monday, Nephawe and Tshivhase, who is also an ANC MPL in the Limpopo legislature, could not be reached for comment.
But Mphaphuli said the family would decide on Saturday whether to appeal against the judgment.
Addressing his people at the celebration, Mphephu-Ramabulana said his detractors had tried in vain to topple him. “If you are a king, you don’t get to be voted out after five years, as happens in politics. This is a lifetime position,” he said.
The new monarch was magnanimous, extending an olive branch to the three chiefs who had challenged his kingship.
“We must embrace everyone as we are celebrating, including those who dreamt of becoming kings. They remain part of us,” he said. He said they should still be recognised as rightful chiefs.