Media Statements

The Balobedu Queenship Recognised and Dignity Restored

The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, honourable Des van Rooyen visited the Modjadji Traditional Authority today (26 July 2016). His visit coincided with good winter rains that showered the whole country. This countrywide rainfall ahead and during this special day is considered a stroke of luck.


The importance of rain in the Balobedu culture and tradition is well-known as the Rain Queen is believed to have special powers, including the ability to control the clouds and rainfall. Rain brings water to dry places, and causes crops to flourish, so it is often viewed as being a blessing and bringing good luck. Today, 26 July 2016 once again, rain showered the rest of the country at a time when it is not common to have it, in winter. This showers had great significance to the Balobedu today as they were beginning a new chapter in life, one that should be blessed, blissful, and filled with good fortune.


The Minister was accompanied by the Deputy Minister responsible for Traditional Affairs, honourable Obed Bapela, the COGHSTA MEC, honourable Makoma Makhurupetje, traditional leaders, as well as the Mayors.


The roots of this visit has its foundation from those that were undertaken by former president Nelson Mandela. The former President was able to fulfil the promises that he made to the late Rain Queen Modjadji the fifth. The former President was also able to assist as promised with the development in Bolobedu. However amongst those important promises, the former President was not able to look at the issue of the queenship of Balobedu. Then under the leadership of His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, the dignity of the Balobedu tribe is restored.


In 1972, the apartheid regime stripped the then Rain Queen Makoma Modjadji of her
powers, reducing her title to that of chieftainness.  Villages and indunas under her jurisdiction were incorporated into the Lebowa and Gazankulu homelands, thus destroying the rich cultures and the lineage of the queen dating back over 400 years.


Based on the request that was submitted by the Balobedu tribe to government, requesting recognition of their Kingdom. The Kgatla commission that looked into this matter concluded its work. To this effect, his Excellency President Jacob Zuma proclaimed the recognition of the queenship of the Balobedu tribe in Limpopo. This landmark decision about the Queenship of Balobedu was recognised in terms of section 2A (3) (a) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, 2003 (Act No. 41 of 2003) on 31 March 2016. “This decision of the President will definitely restore the dignity of this proud community”, said Minister van Rooyen.


In this regard, the President Zuma send Minister Des van Rooyen to the Modjadji tribal authority and the Balobedu tribe to officially inform them about the recognition of their queenship in line with laws of our country. Addressing the community Minister van Rooyen said, “today I brought good news, your dignity and finally been restored as the Balobedu queenship is finally been recognised by government, making it the first in the country and in the Southern African region”. This means that the queen of the Balobedu has also join the ranks of the recognised Kings in our country.


This recognition also brings to an end a long-drawn campaign by the Balobedu to have their Rain Queen, as a sitting ruler who is recognised by the democratic government.

Of importance is that this recognition of the Queenship of Balobedu is taking place at a time when the country is about to recognise the gallant contribution and the indomitable spirit of women in our country. This recognition also comes just a moth before the 60th anniversary of woman’s month. Therefore this important breakthrough of recognising the queenship of the Balobedu is victory to the women and highlights the progress that government has made thus far to ensure equality between men and women.


It is within this context that is important to highlight that the Modjadji or Rain Queen is the hereditary queen of Balobedu people. The succession to the position of Rain Queen is matrilineal, meaning that the eldest daughter reigning queen is an heir, and males are not entitled to inherit the throne at all.


Therefore since the passing of Queen Modjadji the VI, her daughter Masalanabo Modjadji is in line to become the next queen (Queen Modjadji the VII). Since the succession to the position of the Rain Queen is matrilineal and therefore meaning that males are not entitled to inherit the throne, the death of Queen Modjadji the VI left a vacuum as the rightful heir is too young to take the reigns. This extraordinary challenges called for extraordinary decision. To this effect, the brother of the late queen Makobo, Prince Mpapatla has been designated Regent for Masalanabo. The regent will only be assisting until the queen is over the age of 18 years and ready to take over the reigns.


This minister also indicated that government is going to build a memorial in an effort to preserve the history and the legacy of the Balobedu. This will assist to ensure that the rich history of the people is recorded and known. In addition, Minister van Rooyen informed the communities who were cheering this good news that government is working on recognising the language of the Balobedu which is the Khelobedu. Communities indicated that their language, Khelobedu was wrongly assumed to be a dialect of Northern Sotho, which is not. Some communities indicated that their children struggle in school because they are taught in Sepedi while at home they speak Khelobedu. And some hold the view that they cannot claim to be a kingdom when they speak a language that is not their own.


As the Balobedu are now taking their seat amongst the family of Kings in the country, the chair of the national house of traditional leaders also gave the words of encouragement and welcomed them. The chair called on communities to support the regent to ensure that he is able to discharge his duties and leading the Balobedu tribe.


Minister van Rooyen also reflected on the importance that government attaches to the institution of traditional leadership and the important role that they play within the democratic South Africa. This recognition of our cultures and traditions speaks to the significance that government places on the broader institution of traditional leadership. Even though there is progress made in providing services to the Balobedu, the Minister indicated that the recognition was just the beginning of the hard work that still lies ahead to build this newly recognised Kingdom.


“We are proud to be part of the history that is unfolding today, which sees the people being recognised and their dignity being restored as this is main aim of the democratic government. We also call on all the Balobedu and all South Africans to support this new queenship”, said Deputy Minister Bapela.


The Minister also addressed the communities who came in their numbers to hear the good news about the recognition of their Queen. The Minister further urged all community members to contribute to strengthening their democracy by going to vote in the coming local government elections on 03 August 2016.


Government has also committed to continue working with the community to address all issues raised with government.



Legadima Leso

COGTA Head of Communications

Cell: 083 378 9495