President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed a legal document, which recognises King Thulare Victor Thulare III, as the paramount king of Bapedi. This follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court against his uncle, acting King Kenneth Kgagudi Sekhukhune.

Sekhukhune became acting King in 1976 after Thulare’s father, Rhyne Thulare, did not ascend the throne due to family conflicts.

The legal battles started in 1991. Rhyne Thulare died in 2007 while the matter was continuing.

Sekhukhune was deposed in 2010 after the Commission on Traditional Leadership found that he was not the rightful king, but he fought all the way to the Constitutional Court.

Spokesperson for King Thulare III, Chief Mmathabeng Maila, says they welcome the ruling.

“We are very much elated, but we expected this from the beginning; that our King is going to emerge victorious. We hope and think that Bopedi, being rich with minerals, the entire nation of Bopedi is going to be developed because this is long overdue. This was a long journey in the wilderness.”

The fight for the Bapedi Kingship

In 2019, the Nhlapo Commission on Traditional Leadership ruled Thulare III as the King of Bapedi. Acting King K.K Sekhukhune took that decision to court.

The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the Nhlapo’s Commission’s decision.

King Sekhukhune’s Spokesperson Samson Phakwago said in 2019 that they would not accept the Supreme Court’s decision and that they would be approaching the Constitutional Court.

“Kgoshikgulu K.K Sekhukhune and his council have taken a conscious decision to take this further to the Constitutional court, particularly that this case involves the customary law of Bapedi. Now it is the Constitutional Court which is more competent to handle such cases, hence we have already started with the process. We have a deadline of the 27th of this month (May 2019) to make submission of court papers, but we have also issued the letters of notice that we are going to the Constitutional Court.”

Phakwago further said that King Thulare III is not supposed to be the King of Bapedi as recommended by the Nhlapho Commission as he is the third born son, and not the first born son of the candle wife.