Inside the Mphahlele royal and mining battles
IN 1950, Kgoshi Mmutle III of the Bakgaga-Ba-Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo wrote a letter to then Minister of Native Affairs about the farms the community had bought and how they will be utilised for the benefit of all its members.
This was after the community had bought portions of land known as Zaaikloof 651, Olifantspoort 675, Kamelbult 55, Spitzkop 9523, Veeplaats 519, Vlaklaagte 1969, Poortjie 1968, Doornvlei 612, Schilpadnek 9320, Boomplaats 1659, Naauwpoort 521, Molsgat 1660, Groothoek 1796, Zondernaa 525, Tabakplaats 530, and Grootdraai 532.
In the letter dated 27 March 1950, Mmutle III made it clear that the money derived from the farms “shall accrue to the Bakgakga Tribe and shall form part of the tribal Voluntary Fund.”
The letter also read in part:“That in view of the continual migration of our tribesmen to the urban areas for employment, we humbly request the Government to stem up this afflux (sic) by establishing some industries near and/or around our Reserve so that our tribesmen may be saved from the dangers of urban life.”
Mmutle went on to clarify that the portion of one of the farms will be utilised as Lehwiti La Kgoshi (Chief’s Area) “not as personal property but as communal property, for on this portion lie buried generations of past chiefs and tribesmen.”
The buying of the farms, mooted in 1928, showed the foresight of Mmutle III. But in his vision, he brought unforeseen ructions in the community which are being felt even today through a litany of complaints by community members and a plethora of criminal and civil actions.
Though hailed as a visionary, Mmutle III, who was educated at Lovedale, passed away without marrying a principal wife. Failure to marry a principal wife – due to his insistence that he needed an educated wife – was an error of judgement the repercussions of which are still being felt by the tribe today, according to Dr Malekutu Levy Bopape.
In his work titled “Northern Sotho Historical Dramas: A HistoricalBiographical Analysis”, Bopape wrote: “These problems were compounded by the fact that Mmutle III had introduced a new order amongst his people to accomondate the changing times. This, in turn, had introduced a different culture. His death created a problem which was unparalleled in the history of the Mphahlele people.
“Consequently, the tribe had neither queen nor heir. Again, this is unprecedented in the royal history. The tribe had to find a queen and a regent. In an attempt to solve this problem, the tribe decided that they wanted a regent and not a chief. They felt that to say they wanted a chief would create more problems for the tribe.”
The Mphahlele community has never had a chief since the death of Mmutle III. Instead, regency has been the norm for the past 67 years, with Moepadira become the first regent. He acted from 1950 to 1953 when he was deposed and banned from the village.
He was succeeded by Mokgobi Trodd who ruled between 1953 to 1958 before he was committed to a mental hospital and was no longer able to perform his duties, according to a letter by the Native Commissioner dated 13 January 1958.
Moepadira was then reinstated until 1974 when the regency was taken over by NgwanaMohube who was recommended by the erstwhile Lebowa Bantustan leader Dr Cedric Phatudi who himself was the son of Mmutle III from the ninth wife.
Today, NgwanaMohube and her eldest son, Malekutu, are facing a long list of complaints from community members including the Mphahlele Royal Council itself which has also accused them of being involved in illegal mining.
The confrontation ended in a civil action being brought against them. The Part B of the civil action has also raised the question of the continuing legitimacy of NgwanaMohube as a regent and for allegedly appointing her eldest son, Malekutu, as a senior traditional leader of the BakgakgaBa-Ga-Mphahlele.
In court papers, Royal Council chairperson Nkopodi Mphahlele, who is also a Mokgomana, wrote: “We are advised, and which advise we accept that so called Queen Mother Kgoshigadi Sophia Ngwanamohube has been a regent for 41 years and is the 2nd respondent in this matter. We are also advised that 2nd respondent certificate of Regent has expired as in terms of the Act (a certificate of acting authority is valid for ten years only).”
In these, Mphahlele wants the court to believe that NgwanaMohube cannot take decision on behalf of the community, and all the decisions she had taken so far were invalid.
The Part B of the application is to be heard in the Polokwane High court in November.
Next Week: Vision dumped as chrome rush engulfs Ga-Mphahlele
Kgoshi Mmutle III