During Maatamela’s stay at Dopeni, King Ramabulana died at Vuvha, one of his palaces, after a long illness. The royal family suspected Ramabulana’s eldest son, Davhana, of being responsible for Ramabulana’s death. This was despite the fact that Ramabulana was very old when he died. But what led to members of the royal house suspecting Davhana of having a hand in his father’s death was the fact that when Ramabulana was ill, Davhana had secretly removed him father from the Vuvha palace, and accommodated him in a humble dwelling outside the royal palace. Davhana had given instructions for the dwelling to be erected, for Ramabulana to receive treatment in isolation. Ordinary people and relatives, including vhomakhadzi (paternal aunts) and makhotsimunene (paternal uncles) were forbidden to visit him. As the closest relatives were not told why they could not have access to their ruler, an aura of suspicion surrounded the prevailing situation. This prevailing opinion amongst the Venda people had an influence on Davhana’s failure to succeed his father.
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.
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 Luonde, Tshivhilidulu, Ha-Matumba, and Vumbani, and Makhado’s age group, Madali, with whom he was circumcised and initiated at 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.