Late Bapedi king hailed as unifier, community developer
The late Bapedi king, Thulare Victor Thulare, has been hailed as a unifier who also sought to uplift his kingdom during his short stint at the throne.
Thulare died on January 6 after Covid-19 complications, just less than a year after he was officially recognised as the rightful king of Bapedi by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Last year, Ramaphosa officially recognised Thulare, 40, after years of a legal wrangle with his uncle and then acting king Kgagudi Kenneth Sekhukhune, who had wanted his son, Prince Sekwati Khutjo Sekhukhune, to take over.
Thulare’s death was viewed as a blow to efforts to forge unity within the Bapedi kingdom, which has been entangled in protracted fights over who was the rightful heir to the throne.
Ramaphosa called for calm and peace as eyes were on the kingdom to see who would succeed Thulare.
“When he was officially recognised, Kgoshi Thulare shared his aspiration for the peace and unity of his kingdom, so that they could collectively chart a new path of reconciliation, development and prosperity for the people,” Ramaphosa said.
He said Thulare had advocated for harmony within the kingdom even before he ascended to the throne.
“Let his dreams not die with him. Let us not bury the vision that he had with him. Let the unity that he championed live well beyond his brief but promising reign,” Ramaphosa said.
In 2010, the Nhlapho Commission, appointed by former president Thabo Mbeki to look into traditional leadership disputes, found that Thulare was the rightful king of the Bapedi, a finding which set in motion a decade-long legal battle as Sekhukhune sought to have it overturned by the courts.
Sekhukhune’s unsuccessful legal battle ended last year after the Constitutional Court dismissed his appeal, paving the way for Ramaphosa to officially recognise Thulare.
While plans were also afoot for Thulare’s coronation, Sekhukhune and his faction within the kingdom had rejected both the court outcome and Ramaphosa’s recognition of the late monarch, and instead accused the courts and government of discrimination.
Ramaphosa also pointed out that Thulare’s short stint at the helm of the Bapedi kingdom had been marked by his drive to ensure economic emancipation of his subjects from their mineral-rich land.
“He brought experts together to chart a new economic path for Ga-Sekhukhune, with a strong focus on youth empowerment. He would say: ‘I am still youthful, I still have the agility’.
’’With minerals and other natural resources abundant in his area, he wanted to work with the mining companies to grow the local economy and stem the tide of youth leaving for the cities,” Ramaphosa said.
King Thulare’s brother, Prince Phathudi Thulare, said the late monarch had grown up under great difficulty due to the torment that arose over the fractures over control within the kingdom, and that his death was a setback to the mission he led to unite the kingdom and drive socio-economic development of the Bapedi nation.
“It has brought to a standstill a period of hopefulness and progress. We know too well that he was a single feature in our lives that inspired us to work in building the Bapedi kingdom on a fledgling economy.
“While sorrow, pain and suffering seem like the only thing going on in this kingdom at the moment, considering the rich loss, we are comforted by the fact that you love your king and he loved you,” he said.
The royal family are yet to announce his successor.