The people of Ha-Mashau are of the Vhafamadi clan, an offshoot of Vhakwevho. Oral history, supported by archaeological evidence, indicates that Vhafamadi settled at Ha-Mashau around 1200 CE. Today the Mashau royal family is able to trace its history to the late 1600s and early 1700s.
Before colonialism and the disposition of the land by the Boers, Vhakwevho occupied Luonde and Luvhola. The land of Vhakwevho stretched from the source of Luvuvhu river in the west (next to Tshivhodza) to Thumbadulu (corrupted to Timbadola) in the east, to Mount Luvhola in the south.
According to Vhavenda oral history, a war of succession ensued in Luonde after the death of a Mukwevho chief. The war was between two Mukwevho princes. The group that supported one of the claimants was defeated and was forced to flee from Luonde. Most of the supporters of the defeated claimant drowned while crossing Luvuvhu river. The survivors became known as Vhafelamadini, meaning those that died in the water / those that drowned. This name was, with time, changed to Vhafamadi.
This group of Vhafelamadini settled at a place known today as Ha-Mashau.
Limani & the strategy to influence who the future venda king shoud be
King Makhado’s mother was Limani. She was the daughter of Matumba, a Mukwevho of Tshitavhadulu and the younger brother of Khosi Matidze, the chief of Luonde.
Vhatwamamba, of Ha-Tshivhula, and Vhakwevho were amongst the first Vhavenda clans to initiate and circumcise their boys. These two clans became known, and are still known, as vhafumbisi, circumcision surgeons.
In 1854, realising that the war of succession could ensue amongst King Rambulana’s sons after his death, Makhado’s maternal uncles, the Vhakwevho and Vhafamadi, advised him to secretly enter the mula/murundu (initiation school) at Tshamatangwi, Ha-Mashau. The reason why Makhado’s maternal uncles advised him to enter mula was to render him acceptable to fellow initiates who would later form the core of his fighters in the war of succession. He entered mula with his cousin Nndwayamiomva Ravele (who later became the chief of Old Mauluma), and their friend Funyufunyu of Vhulorwa. The age group with which Makhado and Nndwayamiomva were initiated was known as Madali.
Some historians have argued that Makhado was the first Muvenda to be circumcised. This is incorrect. The Tshivhula and Mukwevho/Mufamadi clans had already started circumcising their boys long before Makhado was born. Makhado’s maternal grandfather, Matumba, was the first Mukwevho to be circumcised after he visited Mavhambo, Ha-Tshivhula, during circumcision season.
Makhado becomes king of venda with vhakwevho/vhafamadi’s assistance
Ramabulana’s sons were Davhana, Rasikhuthuma, Nthabalala, Khangale, Ramalamula, Liswoga, Maatamela (Mulelu), Ramaru, Ramanala, Raliphaswa and Makhado.
Although Ramabulana died at an old age, the people still looked for the culprit ‘who caused his death’. This was because in Tshivenda custom it was maintained that for every death there should be a cause. Traditionally, Vhavenda resorted to diviners who had to explain to them what had in fact happened.
In the case of Ramabulana’s death the people suspected Davhana of having killed his father. There were grounds to believe it. At the time of his death, Ramabulana was confined to a dwelling erected by Davhana outside the royal kraal, where he, Davhana, nursed his father. This prevailing opinion amongst the Venda people had an influence on Davhana’s accession to his father’s throne.
After Ramabulana’s death, some of Davhana’s younger brothers approached Rambulana’s sister and khadzi, Makhadzi Nyakhuhu, to have Davhana installed as king. Although this was contrary to accepted custom, as the sons could not choose and install one of their own, Makhadzi Nyakhuhu directed them to bring all the sons together. They did so, but excluded Makhado. When Makhadzi Nyakhuhu wanted to know why they had excluded Makhado, they stated Makhado was no longer one of them as he had forfeited his rights by getting circumcised.
Ramabulana’s sons wanted Davhana to be the king. Makhadzi Nyakhuhu, who was against the sons’ demand, and after being pressurised by the princes, told Ramabulana’s sons to do as they pleased. Davhana therefore forced himself into the position of Thovhele. He usurped the throne. But he did not have the support of Makhadzi Nyakhuhu and Khotsimunene Madzhie, and his ascendancy to the throne was therefore null and void.
Davhana was also not loved by ordinary Vhavenda who saw him as a dictator and who regarded him as cruel and evil. This was due to the fact that when Ramabulana was ill, Davhana was in charge of royal affairs at the Vuvha royal residence and was heavy-handed in his judgements and sentences. He was also alleged to have murdered innocent people cruelly and to have had their corpses hidden in maize storage pits. Oral accounts have it that even his father, Ramabulana, was worried about Davhana’s cruelty. Ramabulana is said to have told Davhana that “hanga u nga si vhu dzhene vhuhosi”, meaning “you will never succeed me as the king”.
The majority of people supported Makhado whose mother, Limani, was loved by commoners and royals. Limani was known for her kindness, generosity, caring attitude, and treating visitors well. The royal residence of Tshirululuni, where Limani was based, was more welcoming as opposed to the one at Vuvha where Davhana’s mother was based. Moreover, Davhana’s mother was suspected of practicing witchcraft. The suspicion of witchcraft, coupled with Davhana’s cruelty, led to some influential people suspecting that Davhana was himself a tshivhimbili (sorcerer).
Makhadzi Nyakhuhu and Khotsimunene Madzhie came together and agreed to install Makhado as the new king. Funyufunyu, Rasivhetshele, Nndwayamiomva, and Makhado were asked by Madzhie to call in Makhado’s supporters. The number of Makhado’s supporters was swelled by his maternal uncles and cousins, the Vhakwevho of Ha-Matumba, Luonde, and Vumbani, and Makhado’s age group, Madali from Ha-Mashau.
Meanwhile Davhana, who knew that he was not favoured by Makhadzi Nyakhuhu and Khotsimunene Madzhie, was restless and was looking for Makhado so that he could kill him. Makhado remained in hiding at Ndouvhada. In his quest to locate Makhado, Davhana further alienated the few supporters he had. He also had a clash with his cousin, Khosi Maphaha of Phawe, the son of Makhadzi Nyakhuhu.
After arrangements for Makhado’s installation had been finalised, his councillors advised him to embark on making ritual preparations under the direction of maine (a diviner). This ritual preparation, known as tshirovha, is believed to cause heavy rains or mist thereby allowing the army to advance under the cover of rain or mist without being detected by the enemy. These medicinal preparations were intended to strengthen and fortify the army and to confuse the enemy.
After Makhado had gone through all the ritual preparations and when the maine told him to go and attack Davhana, it is reported that, as expected, heavy rains fell. The army then went to evict Davhana from Vuvha under the cover of these heavy rains. Davhana and his supporters could not withstand this onslaught and they hurriedly fled, leaving the zwitungulo (important religious instruments) behind. These were then taken by Makhado who handed them over to Makhadzi Nyakhuhu at Tshirululuni.
After Davhana’s defeat, a great meeting was convened by Khotsimunene Madzhie at Tshirululuni concerning these zwitungulo and preparations for Makhado’s coronation. A better gift could not have been presented to Makhadzi Nyakhuhu than the zwitungulo of her ancestors. As she could not control her joy she jumped up and performed a ritual dance. Thereafter she took the zwitungulo and placed them before Makhado and proclaimed him the king of Venda.
Boer arrival and land disposation
The Boers arrived at Ha-Mashau in the 1870s. Henri and Paul Berthoud were the first white settlers to settle at Ha-Mashau and established a mission station at Lwalani, known today as Valdezia and Klipfontein. They were granted permission to establish a mission station by Mafanzhoni, who had usurped the throne after his brother, Mugolidwa, died when his wife was pregnant with his son, Vhudzani.
Mafanzhoni ruled illegally until he was dethroned by Vhudzani in 1897.
Like most African communities in South Africa, the people of Ha-Mashau lost large portions of their land after the promulgation of the racist and land grabbing 1913 Land Act.
Ludendani, was turned into a banana plantation owned by a white man named Borchers. Borchers prevented the people of Ha-Mashau from tilling the remaining land they still owned so that they should till his land. He also prevented them from breeding and owning goats. They were also told how many heads of cattle they could own.
After Vhudzani’s death in 1931, the people of Ha-Mashau were forbidden from settling and farming at Tshavhafamadi, Vhulatandadza, Mbambula, and Tshidolodolwe.
Vhudzani was succeeded by Khwara Tshidumbu. During Khwara’s reign, a Boer named Wilhem Castens ordered Khwara to move the royal residence to another place because Castens wanted to build his house where the royal residence was. Khwara told Castens to pull the royal residence and place it in the place where Castens suggested it should be. Khwara’s refusal to co-operate with the racist Castens led to Castens abandoning his evil and racist plans.
Khwara was succeeded by Mukhaswakule.
- Lwalani; and
- Ha-Thenga / Manarini.
- TG Mashau, TS Mashau, and TT Rabothata – The History of Mashau Tribe, (2014); and
- Ratshilumela Mashau.