The Ravele community was one of the Luvuvhu river valley communities forcibly removed from their land by the South African government in the 1930s. The Luvuvhu river valley is very fertile and Luvuvhu river has many tributaries like Lutanangwa, Luvhungwe, Muunga, Vumbani, and Mutandabinyuka. The name Luvuvhu means the river full of hippopotamus (Mvuvhu). Europeans corrupted the name Luvuvhu into Levubu and the valley is known today as Levubu. The river is, however, officially known as Luvuvhu.
Other communities along the Luvhuvhu river valley were Luonde, Mashau, Matumba, Matidza, Ratombo, Makatu, Rasikhuthuma and Davhana. These communities, with the possible exception of Davhana, paid tribute to the Ramabulana Royal House.
The founder of the Ravele clan descended from the Ramabulans. His names were Ravele Nndwayamiomva, and was also known as Matsheketsheke. Ravele lived at Vuvha. Thovhele Makhado Ramabulana sent Ravele to the old Mauluma mountain on the present farm Barotta 17LT in 1860. The main purpose was for the clan to guard against any possible attacks from Thovhele Makhado’s half-brother Khosi Davhana whom Makhado had defeated in a war of succession.
The Masakona and Tshiungani communities lived on the land controlled by the Raveles. The land controlled by Ravele was bordered in the east by the Luvhungwe river. Luvhungwe river separated the Ravele from the Tshakhuma/Madzivhanḓila community. In the north there was a grazing area bordering the Mugwada community (Entabeni). In the south, the demarcation was the present Makhado/Thohoyandou road. In the west, was the Ha-Bvumi which marked the beginning of the Ravele community. The musanda (royal kraal) of the Ravele community was Matondoni. Matondoni bordered the Ratombo community and the Muunga river separated the Ravele from Ratombo, while Vumbani river separated Ravele from Rasikhuthuma community.
The arrival of Europeans in Venda and their attempt at declaring the Luvuvhu river valley a white are posed a threat to the Luvuvhu communities. Communities were aware of the effects of having Luvuvhu declared a white area. Thovhele Mphephu resisted the Europeans’ attempts at declaring Luvuvhu a white area. He objected against removal and argued that it would affect families adversely since they would be scattered all over.
Europeans imposed hut tax on communities in the Luvuvhu river valley. The arrival of Joao Albasini also posed a threat to the Luvuvhu communities. Albasini was a Native Commissioner and a white chief of Tsonga-Shangaans. He was hated by Vhavenda because he collected tax from them using his Tsonga-Shangaan followers as policemen and tax collectors.
The Luvuvhu river valley was scheduled as a white area in terms of 2 of the Land Act, No.27 of 1913. Old Mauluma was divided into different farms and given different colonial names by the settlers. These farms are/were Barotta, Klein Australie, Entabeni, Levubu No.15LT, Nooitgedaght, and Appelsfontein.
Irrigation scheme and forestry led to the dispossession of Luvuvhu river valley from the Ravele, Ratombo, Mashau, Masakona, Makatu, Matidze, Mukwevho and Davhana communities. These communities were forcibly removed to make way for settlers and to also solve the ‘poor white problem’.
Irrigation construction began in 1936. The process of removing the Luvuvhu communities had commenced in 1921. Communities that were moved in 1921 were taken to present day Ha-Mashau while some were taken to Ha-Tshivhasa. The final removal of the Ravele community took place in 1936 when the government decided to establish a European Irrigation settlement. The committee responsible for white settlement regarded “New Mauluma” in the Nzhelele valley as ” of equal agricultural value to the Luvuvhu valley”. The Ravele community was expected to move to “New Mauluma”.
In 1939 Entabeni and Barotta No.65 were declared government plantation areas. This meant that the people of Matidza, Makatu, Ravele and Ratombo would be moved. Not all the families of the Ravele community were re-settled in 1938. Acting Khosi Tshivhase (called Jack Godane) Makhadzi Ravele, Tshivhase’s mother, two wives, aunt, two widows of the deceased Nanga Ravele, Nanga’s mother, Frank Ndwakhulu Ravele (the son and heir of the late Ńanga Ravele) stayed in the Luvuvhu river valley. The were granted permission to stay with effect from 23 November 1938 for a five year period, which they could extend on a year to year basis, until the custodians were able to leave. They were allowed to have small ploughing fields around their huts.
New Mauluma resembled a desert. People were no longer able to make sleeping mats such as thovho (bamboo bed). Clay, a valuable material for the making of cooking pots was also unavailable. They were now forced to buy these articles from other communities.
The Ravele community was also denied the right to perform murundu or boys circumcision. The suitable sites for murundu were located in old Mauluma while new Mauluma made it impossible for them to perform circumcision due to lack of forests and water.
Vhavenda blamed the Tsonga-Shangaans for collaborating with the Boers while the Tsonga-Shangaans blamed Vhavenda for resisting white encroachment. The animosity between the two groups was compounded by the fact that during the Mphephu War of 1898 Tsonga-Shangaans assisted the Boers against Vhavenda. Tsonga-Shangaan chief, Mavambe provided 800 men to assist the Boers. The Native Location Commission of 1907 rewarded the Tsonga-Shangaans, led by Shigalo,by giving them 500 morgen of land along the banks of the Luvuvhu river. Shigalo was originally placed in the area by the Boers in 1888 to act as a buffer against Vhavenda who occupied Luvuvhu in large numbers.
Khosi Nndwakhulu Frank Ravele, who was the Minister of Finance and later President of the ‘Republic’ of Venda, also the Khosi of the Ravele community in Mauluma died in 1999. The new Khosi of Mauluma is Khosi Nndwayamiomva John Ravele who was installed in 2001.
The Ravele, Madzivhandila, Masakona, and Ratombo communities have submitted claims to the Land Claims Commission to get their land back. In 2003 the Limpopo Provincial Government proposed a “revolutionary” land reform plan to a group of farmers in the Luvuvhu River Valley. The plan entailed equity sharing between the current owners and communities who were claiming their land. According to the plan, proposed by the regional Land Claims Commission, a joint venture was to be set up between the current farmers and the new landowners after transferral of the land to the claimants. Current landowners would be contracted to continue managing the different farming enterprises for an interim period of several years. They would re-invest part of the payment they received from government for their land into the joint venture.
- E Ramudzuli – The Uprooting of the Ravele Community in the Luvuvhu River Valley and its Consequences, 1920-1930’s. Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Magister Artium in Historical Studies in the Faculty of Arts. Rand Afrikaans University, May 2001
- Oral accounts