Rain Queens of baLobedu, South Africa || BaLobedu Modjadji Royal Family

Who are the Balobedu

Lobedu or baLobedu is an ethnic community that currently inhabit the Limpopo province in South Africa. They are famously known for their baLobedu kingdom or rather Queendom where the monarch is always a woman from the Royal House of Modjajdi since 1800. Their language is known as Khelobedu

In the latter part of the 1500s the Monomutapa Kingdom royal family experienced a crisis when the king’s son and daughter had an incestuous affair and conceived an illegitimate child forcing the kings daughter and her mother to flee King to banish his daughter from the kingdom, and she fled south to what is now Limpopo, South Africa. A kingdom was eventually established in the area we now know as Bolobedu.

Today only female succession is allowed and thus no males are allowed on the throne. However baLobedu were ruled by male kings before 1800. There are many historical stories as to why it changed from a kingship to a Queenship

In the 1700s the then King Mokoto had many sons but his sons were plotting to assassinate and/or overthrow him, unruly, slept with his younger wives so he disinherited all of his male sons. He then secretly convinced his daughter Princess Dzungundini to bear him a female heir who would ascend to the throne after his cycle passed , promising her to be Queen until the heir was born,. After marrying her father, the Queen, Dzungundini gave birth to a son whom was strangled as an infant by his father. The second child was a daughter whom they named
Maselekwane, first Rain Queen of BaLobedu.

The Rain Goddess /Monesapula was said to have lived in the body of the queen of Balobedu thus Queens are said to possess rain making powers. In the olden days they also used to commit suicide by ritual poisoning when nearing their death so as to ensure faster succession for their daughters. See more about BaLobedu tribe here – BaLobedu. Some royal facts;

  • Population of about 2 million
  • Language – Khelobedu
  • When a female ruler ascends , she isn’t allowed to marry but rather , the headmen of modjadji bring their daughters as wives to modjadji called “Bathanoni”, they live with her in the kraal and help her with her day to day live. Some are even given to her brothers if she has brothers to bear children
  • The incumbent of the throne (Queen/King) has “regiments” Basadi Ba Khekhapa ,who on special occasions come and dance for the monarch
  • BaLobedu are a sister tribe to the Vavhenda , their relation dates back to the 1800.

Royal Titles

  • King or Rain Queen – Khosikholo, Modjadji being the reign name which means ruler of the day
  • Prince Or Princess – Mokhololo (plural Bhakololo)
  • Also kings/queens and chiefs are called Bamosata as a sign of respect/praise name. Mosata is royal compound. Special thanks to Prince Lekukela Modjajdi
  • Chief – Khosi
  • Ntuna/Nduna – Village heads
  • Royal palace – Khetlhakoni Royal Palace in Modjadjiskloof outside Tzaneen in Limpopo

Source : SABC News

The matrilineal succession is usually mother to eldest daughter from the royal House of modjajdi, but in special cases where it is not possible, a granddaughter, sister or cousin can ascend the throne. According to tradition the female rulers used to marry their close male family members but the late Queen married her lover. To date there have been 7 rain Queens since 1800. The monarchreigns over 135 villages and towns overseen by 128 headmen and headwoman. The Balobedu are organized into various sub groups

  • Balobedu Ba Sekgopo
  • Balobedu ba Mamaila Mphotwane
  • Balobedu ba Mamaila Kolobetuna
  • Balobedu ba Rakwadu
  • Balobedu ba Raphahlelo
  • Balobedu ba Phooko
  • Balobedu ba pheeha
  • Balobedu ba Sebela

Rain Queen Maselekwane Modjadji I

She was the first rain Queen of this dynasty reigning until her death in 1854 which was a ritual suicide by poisoning. She lived in complete seclusion, deep in the forest and was seen as an intercessor or intermediary between her people, the royal ancestors and the rain goddess/Modjadji.

Rain Queen Masalanabo Modjadji II

She succeeded her mother and reigned from 1854 to 1894 when she committed ritual suicide. She was the first Queen to be seen by the white man since they lived in seclusion. She was forced to reveal herself to the south African colonial delegation to negotiate. To their surprise she was not a white woman ruling a black tribe as a legend has been told before. She did not have children of her own and thus was succeeded by her niece rain Queen Khesetoane.

Rain Queen Khesetwane Modjadji III

HM Rain Queen Khesetwane Modjadji III of baLobedu people, South Africa (reigned from 1895 – 1959).
Born in 1869, she succeeded her late aunt Queen Masalanabo Modjadji II as the rain queen. She was the longest reigning monarch of Balobedu(64 years). After her death she was succeeded by her daughter Rain Queen Makoma Modjadji IV.

Photos; Courtesy

Rain Queen Makoma Modjadji IV

HM Rain Queen Makoma Modjadji IV of baLobedu people of South Africa.
She was the daughter of Queen Khesetoane Modjadji iii, succeeded her mother and reigned from 1959 until 1980. She was succeeded by her daughter Rain Queen Mokope Modjadji V.

Photos ; Courtesy

Rain Queen Mokope Modjadji V

She succeded her late mother Queen Makoma Modjadji IV of baLobedu after her death in 1980 and reigned until her death in 2001. She was a close friend of Nelson Mandela who bought her a Japanese vehicle for movement and facilitated her to receive a salary from the then ANC government. She had three children including Princess Makhaela who would have inherited the throne but died two days before her mother. She was therefore succeeded by her granddaughter Rain Queen Makobo Modjadji VI


Rain Queen Makobo Modjadji VI

HM Queen Makobo Modjadji VI Caroline of baLobedu, South Africa. (reigned 2003-2005)
Born in 1978, she succeeded her grandmother Rain Queen Mokope Modjadji V who had died in 2001. Her mother Princess Makhaela had died before ascending the throne. She reigned from 2003 until her sudden death in 2005. She was the youngest queen to ascend the throne at 25 years but now her young daughter is currently the youngest rain Queen Masalanabo Modjadji VII of baLobedu. The late queen’s brother prince Mpapatla Modjadji has served as regent for her young daughter/son

Photos: Thapelo Rapotu

Coronation of Rain Queen Makobo Modjadji VI Caroline of baLobedu April 2003

Royal guests included;

  • HM regent King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana of Vhavenda
  • HM King Mayitja III of Ndzundza Mabhoko
  • HRH Nkosi Sango Patekile Holomisa of amaHegebe clan, AbaThembu Kingdom
  • HRH Hosi Pheni Ngove of Ngove clan, Tsonga
  • Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, princess of amaNgutyana clan,  amaMpondo kingdom
  • Among others

Regent Prince Mpapatla Modjajdi

Prince Mpapatla modjadji is the brother of late Queen Makobo Modjajdi VI. He has been serving as the regent to the Balobedu throne and Modjadji traditional royal council.

Photos; Courtesy

Wrangles for the throne have caused the Modjadji royal family to support Prince Lekukela Modjadji while the Motshekga faction support Princess Masalanabo Modjadji

Prince Lekukela Modjadji

Prince Lekukela is the eldest child and only son of late queen Makobo Modjadji VI. He grew up with his mother and great grandmother Queen Mokope Modjadji V at the Ga Modjajdji royal compound and later with his uncle Prince Regent Mpapatla Modjadji. The royal family have selected him as the new successor to the BaLobedu throne, reviving back the Kingship back into the male line after over 200 years of female leadership.

Princess Masalanabo Modjadji VII

Princess Masalanabo Modjadji is the daughter of late HM Queen Makobo Modjadji VI who died suddenly in 2005 after reigning for 2 years. She was only five months then and was taken into the care of the Motshekga family. The monarchy has officially been recognised by Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa governments of South Africa. Her uncle prince Mpapatla Modjadji has served as regent. She recently turned 18 and is expected to be crowned soon.

Photos; Courtesy

Royal Ceremonies

  • Dithokola – annual rain making ceremonies every October


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