Calls for calm over fractious BaPedi kingship

Calm has been called for in the BaPedi nation after the death of King Thulare Thulare III, who had waged a long and fractious family battle for the kingship. 

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), a constitutional chapter nine institution, said that it would wait for the mourning period to end before pronouncing its views on the BaPedi nation’s throne succession. 

King Thulare died on Thursday, aged 40; the royal family had yet not released a statement by Friday on reasons for his death, or plans for his burial. 

However, Mpiyakhe Mkholo, spokesperson for the commission, said the institution wanted a peaceful transition of the BaPedi kingship, unlike the contentious legal battles that ensued before King Thulare’s ascension in April 2020.

“As the commission, we will release a statement next week on our views regarding the succession process. We decided [on Thursday] that we want to allow the family space for the mourning before we pronounce. 

“We don’t want a situation where, before the king has been laid to rest, [in which] already conflict flares up regarding who his successor will be. We understand the history of the kingship, but we need to be respectful and allow the family space,” Mkholo said. 

The conflict Mkholo alluded to related to the long-running legal battle between King Thulare and his uncle, Kgagudi Kenneth (KK) Sekhukhune, the acting king before Thulare’s ascension. 

Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Constitutional Court recognising King Thulare as the rightful leader of the BaPedi nation, KK Sekhukhune released a statement in defiance of the recognition, declaring that his son, Prince Sekwati Khutjo Sekhukhune, was the rightful king. 

“Bakgoma and Bakgomana (royal council members) have the honour to inform the people of South Africa, including the honourable President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet, that the appointment of Sekwati II Sekhukhune was blessed by the aunts and uncles of the Sekhukhune royal family and it should be recognised as such.

“Notwithstanding the president’s consideration of the recognition of Victor Thulare as the king of Bapedi kingship… Bakgoma and Bakgomana of the Bapedi kingship have come to terms with the discrimination and pursuance of our kingdom by government and judiciary alike,” KK Sekhukhune asserted.

“In this regard, the office of the Kgosikgolo [king[ of BaPedi nation, acting in good faith on behalf of the royal family and the nation at large, is informing the president that our traditional leaders and their communities have already committed to support and subject themselves to King Sekwati II Khutjo Sekhukhune (Phaahl’a Bauba) even if the government has chosen not to recognise him in favour of Victor Thulare.”

However, the Limpopo high court, in a scathing judgment against KK Sekhukhune and his son in July 2020, ordered them to vacate the throne for Thulare. 

“The actions of the first and second respondents [KK and Sekwati Sekhukhune] amount to undermining authority and amounts to illegal resistance to the lawful government structures and they are acting contrary to the rule of law.

“The conduct of the two respondents has not been as could be expected in a democratic society where the rule of law is respected,” the judgment read. 

CRL Rights Commission chairperson Professor David Mosoma, in sending his condolences on Thursday, called the BaPedi nation one with “an illustrious history and resolve over the years to fight for its rights, freedom and independence against the brutality of colonialism and apartheid”.
On Thursday, the Economic Freedom Fighters also called for peace in the nation, saying “those remaining in the royal family of the BaPedi kingdom [should] work together to ensure a smooth transition”.