History and background

Frank Maponya andAlex Matlala

Frank Maponya andAlex Matlala

The Balobedu of Modjadji migrated to South Africa from Zimbabwe and have lived in their present domain for about 400 years.

They are renowned throughout Africa for their female rulers and it is traditionally accepted that their queen has the power to produce rain.

Respect for her mystical power has historically restrained internal opposition to her rule or attacks on the Balobedu.

Even the mighty Shaka, king of the amaZulu, treated her with great respect and often paid her tribute.

The rain queen Modjadji remains to this day the focal point and source of strength of the kingdom.

The Balobedu are essentially a federation of smaller groups united by their common allegiance to the queen.

The political power resides in the majority group, descended from the original Balobedu, who have the kolobe, or bushpig, as their totem.

The majority group is descended from immigrants from Northern Sotho and Shangaan tribes that have largely assimilated with the central minority group culturally, though retaining their original totem.

Succession among the Balobedu of Modjadji differs from that of the other tribes.

Before it became customary for female rulers to reign over the tribe, the eldest son of the kgoshi's, or tribal chief, senior wife succeeded to the throne.

But since the start of the Modjadji dynasty, in about 1800 with the inauguration of Modjadji I, the daughter of Kgoshi Mokoto, it has been customary for the rain queen to be succeeded by her eldest daughter.

lThe rain queen seldom appears in public, except during her inauguration or at traditional ceremonies.

She is expected to pass on her secrets to her successor.