Modjadji queenship dispute heads to court
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Pretoria - The battle for the Modjadji royal throne will be heading to court following the decision of the royal council to nominate the heir apparent’s brother to rule over the Balobedu nation at Khetlhakone Village, outside Modjadjiskloof, in Limpopo.
This is according to Phosa Loots Inc Attorneys, representing Princess Masalanabo Modjadji, who was widely expected to be Balobedu nation’s next rain queen when she turned 18 in two years.
Princess Masalanabo, who was tipped to take over as Queen Modjadji VII once she reached the constitutionally required age limit, is the only daughter of Queen Makobo Modjadji VI, who died in June 2005, aged 27.
The girl was just six months old when her mother died after having ruled for two years – the shortest reign in the history of Balobedu.
The Modjadji Royal Council decided last week to announce her older brother, Prince Lekukela, as heir to the throne following a lengthy squabble between the royal family and ANC MP Mathole Motshekga over the princess’s future.
In 2019, the Modjadji Royal Family accused Motshekga – the queendom’s former legal advisor who raised Princess Masalanabo after her mother died – of turning her against them in a bid to hijack the queenship.
In a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Parliament, the royal council also accused Motshekga of using the princess and the Modjadji Royal Family’s names to raise funds and building parallel tribal offices without their knowledge. Motshekga at the time rejected the claims, saying they were baseless and made by a royal council “faction” that sought to cling to power.
The announcement by the royal council received mixed reactions, with some Balobedu saying the appointment of Lekukela brought to an end South Africa’s only female monarch while others welcomed it and blamed Motshekga for the changes.
Masalanabo was widely expected to be the seventh rain queen in the last two centuries, which saw six queens before her in the Modjadji dynasty.
In a statement titled, “Self-proclaimed royal council in the Balobedu Nation challenged by the queenship” issued by Masalanabo’s attorney, Matthews Phosa, it was stated that court papers to challenge the appointment of Lekukela would be served by the end of the week.
Phosa wrote: “The announcement to install Lekukela as the next king flies in the face of all historical, cultural and traditional facts which constitutes a clear deviation from the culture, tradition and customs ….
“It is therefore null and void from the beginning and has no force and effect in law because their decision is contrary to the principle of legality. And it does not accord with the prescripts of the law.
“It further violates the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act.”
He said Ramaphosa announced and confirmed the recognition of the Balobedu Royal Nation under the Queen-elect, who is Masalanabo Modjadji VII.
“A substantive court application will be launched before the end of this week. Should any of the self-proclaimed council oppose this application then we will seek punitive costs against the individuals,” Phosa wrote.
Speaking to the Pretoria News yesterday, advocate Ngoako Maropene, who will be representing Masalanabo in court, confirmed that they would file a application to the high court before the end of the week.
Modjadji regent Prince Mpapatla Bakhoma Modjadji said last night they were aware of the court challenge.
“We received the court papers. We forwarded them to our attorneys so that they could respond to those allegations,” he said.
The Balobedu nation has been in existence for over 400 years and is renowned for its rain-making powers.
Briefing the media on Monday, the Modjadji Royal Council, through regent Prince Mpapatla, defended the ascension of Lekukela to the throne.
He said the problems within the monarchy started after the death of Queen Makobo Modjadji who was Masalanabo’s mother, when paternity disputes arose.
Prince Mpapatla added: “In 2005, after Queen Makobo Modjadji died, problems arose when David Mohale, who we thought was just a friend to Queen Makobo, instead claimed the paternity of Princess Masalanabo, daughter to Queen Makobo.”
Prince Mpapatla added that, as a result, Masalanabo left the Balobedu nation when she was five months old.
He further argued that Masalanabo was not ready for the throne because she missed sacred processes to prepare her as heir.
“Unfortunately, Masalanabo has missed several divine and sacred processes in our culture and tradition as a potential heir. Our kingdom has always been under attack by our adversaries, and by their capturing of Princess Masalanabo, they thought they would have the kingdom a silver platter,” he said.
Prince Mpapatla said the rain-making tradition was not attached to the gender of the monarch.
“Yes, rain-making is a process that is led by Kgosi (female queen) but it also involves the broader community who take part in our yearly rain-making ceremony. It would be wrong to attribute this sacred process to a single individual when it is, in fact, a collaborative effort,” he said.