Pretoria - Billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s clan is embroiled in a bitter intra-family row with the Mmakau kraal over the chieftainship of the Bakgatla Ba Mmakau community, north-west of Pretoria.
The wrangle between the two families first took centre stage a few years ago when the Motsepes decided to challenge the chieftainship of Mmakau, the kraal that had been in authority for 125 years.
Motsepe faction spokesperson Ramoroka Motsepe said the matter was dealt with at the Nhlapo Commission six years ago after they had produced evidence that their forebears were cheated out of the chieftainship in 1892.
The commission had been set up by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2004 to address the traditional leadership disputes and claims.
Ramoroka said the matter had also been to the Mafikeng High Court where a ruling was made in favour of his family.
Despite the two rulings in favour of the Motsepe family, the community appeared to reject them as its leaders.
On Monday, the angry community took to the streets in support of the Mmakau kraal, endorsing its legitimacy to royal status.
The residents vented their anger and frustration by blockading roads.
Some protesters donned T-shirts with the face of Patrick Mmakau, who they believed was next in line to take over the throne. They accused the Motsepes of using the mining tycoon’s money to derail Patrick from becoming their chief.
The protesters blamed Motsepe for fuelling tension in the community by pushing for his relative Sepoekane to become chief.
Sepoekane was last Friday announced as the rightful heir to the throne amid dissatisfaction in the community.
Local councillor Barnay Maubane said the community became infuriated when officials from the North West government convened a meeting to announce Sepoekane as the new chief.
Patrick Mmakau, whose brother Bazabaza Mmakau died in 2013 after ruling for at least 30 years, said he was the rightful heir to the throne.
According to him, the Motsepes were not the rightful royal family. “The Motsepes had never been part of the royal house. I am the remaining person in the family and next in line to take over the chieftainship,” Patrick said.
He said he was not surprised at the resistance his family faced from other members of the clan. “My brother had the same problem, with people running to the former Bophuthatswana president Kgosi Lucas Manyane Mangope claiming he was not the rightful chief,” he said.
Patrick didn’t dispute the court ruling or the commission's findings against him and his family.
He, however, said there had previously been a family meeting at which he was endorsed as the next person to take over the chieftainship.
Asked whether he was going to challenge the court ruling, Patrick said: “We are not going to challenge it in court because the chief is endorsed by the community.
"We are going to leave it to the community to choose who they want as their chief.”
Ramoroka dismissed claims that the Motsepes were not the ruling house, saying his forefathers were dislodged from the chieftainship in 1892.
“In terms of the family tree we are the rightful ruling house,” he said, denying that their richer relative Patrice had influenced matters.
Instead, he accused Patrick of fuelling people's emotions to destabilise the community and embarrass the two families.
Ramoroka said the family was willing to embrace Patrick and had invited him on several occasions to speak about chieftainship issues.
He bemoaned the motive behind the protest, saying it was not fair for a community with so much wealth to be living in poverty.
According to Ramoroka, the community was not well informed about what transpired during the Nhlapo Commission.
Regarding Patrick’s chieftainship, he said: “In terms of his lineage he is the rightful heir, but in terms of our family tree, he is not supposed to be the chief.”
He said the kraal of Mmakau was unwilling to relinquish the chieftainship because it was reluctant to account to the community.
“For 30 years that kraal never gave financial statements, and this showed a lack of accountability to the community,” he said.
According to him, the Mmakau kraal had not included the Motsepes as part of the ruling house, but wanted to run community affairs by themselves. “This is the rightful house. We are not backing down on this."