Masindi wins good fight for women in leadership

Masindi Mphephu wants to be recognised as queen of Vha-Venda nation. /KEVIN SUTHERLAND
Masindi Mphephu wants to be recognised as queen of Vha-Venda nation. /KEVIN SUTHERLAND

I admire women who stand their ground and challenge patriarchy because such a fight usually benefits all women in SA.

I celebrate Princess Masindi Mphephu who has fought so vigorously for her rights.

Her uncle Mbulaheni Charles Mphephu has been a rock, even when he and her niece were allegedly being intimidated and threatened.

According to court papers, the intimidation and threats were for Princess Masindi to stop contesting Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana's leadership.

Frankly, no matter how you look at the battle for the VhaVenda throne, Princess Masindi is the rightful heir to the throne, even though she has been sidelined by her family in favour of her uncle Mphephu-Ramabulana.

Princess Masindi's fight is not without merit. The arbitrary exclusion of certain people belonging to certain groups is outdated and outlawed, meaning that no person can be discriminated against on the basis of gender, for example. People are equal in all respects.

The equality principle is a key provision of the Bill of Rights.

It follows that Princess Masindi should be allowed to achieve her full potential and rule.

Let me take you back a bit, Mphephu-Ramabulana's claim as the rightful heir to the throne has essentially been successfully challenged by Princess Masindi in that he was found to have been unlawfully recognised by the royal family council in 2010 - and by former president Jacob Zuma as the king of VhaVenda in 2012.

Zuma had recognised Mphephu-Ramabulana in terms of the provisions of Section 9 of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act 41 of 2003. However, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set aside Zuma's decision to declare Mphephu-Ramabulana the king of the VhaVenda people.

The court also found that the Royal Family Council's August 2010 decision to recognise Mphephu-Ramabulana as king was unlawful because such recognition promoted gender discrimination.

The court held that "the criteria that only men should succeed to the throne in the Mphephu-Ramabulana community impedes compliance with the provisions of Section 2A(4)(c) of the Framework Act."

Interestingly, the SCA further instructed the National House of Traditional Leaders and the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders to make submissions for the consideration of the Limpopo High Court - which they now have.

However, instead of welcoming the submission, City Press on Sunday reported that the Venda royal family has dismissed the submission as "just a report and not actual judgment".

It is a disgrace that the royal family have adopted a defiant and indifferent tone. The royal family dismissed the submission it seems because it declared Mphephu-Ramabulana as "ineligible for the VhaVenda kingship" and acknowledges Princess Masindi as the rightful heir to the throne.

The family's reaction is expected though it is at odds with their statement earlier this year that they have "accepted the decision of the court and will subsequently go and re-look the matter".

Instead of dismissing the submission, why have they not reviewed the matter?

Princess Masindi, on the other hand, has welcomed the submission as "confirmation of the truth" - and I concur.

Take it from me, there is no court in our beloved land that will ever declare Mphephu-Ramabulana as king of the VhaVenda. It would be unconstitutional.

Discrimination based on gender can never be justified and the disenfranchisement of women entrenched by patriarchy is no longer tolerated.

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