The founder of the Rambuda chiefdom was Phophi Rambuda, the younger brother of Thohoyandou, and Raluswielo (Tshivhase).

The Singo tradition has it that King Thohoyandou disappeared without a trace in 1770. It was believed that he had gone to Vhukalanga (Zimbabwe), the land of his forefathers. Tshisevhe, Thohoyandou’s brother, was installed as acting king. It was believed that Thohoyandou would come back. It later transpired that Thohoyandou had died. But Tshisevhe refused to step down as acting king, and this led to a conflict between him and Thohoyandou’s son, Munzhedzi Mpofu.

Tshisevhe was defeated in the war of succession and was assassinated by Munzhedzi Mpofu. Tshisevhe’s son, Ravhura, fled to Makonde after his father’s assassination. Munzhedzi Mpofu became the new king of Venda. But Raluswielo (Tshivhase), who was at Dopeni, wanted the kingship. He attempted to return to Dzata to usurp the throne. Raluswielo, just like Tshisevhe, was defeated by Munzhedzi Mpofu.

Raluswielo and Rambuda settled at Vhuphani (Ha-Tshivhasa), with Raluswielo being the Khosi of Vhuphani. Rambuda was at Lunungwi, while Raluswielo was at Dopeni.

Rambuda was a hunter and one day he crossed the Mutale River and found himself at Dzimauli which was ruled by a Khosikadzi (woman chief) called Nyafhasi (also known as Nyafukedzani). This chiefdom comprised of areas such as Gogogo, Pile, Tshixwadza, Fefe, Luheni, Dzamba, Ha-Madala, Tshamulumbwi, Helula, Ha-Mabila, Tshitopeni, Mutodane, Tshapasha, and Muswodi. It is believed that Nyafhasi was King Thohoyandou’s sister and was placed at Dzimauli by King Thohoyandou.

Rambuda fell in love with the land of Dzimauli and later conquered it. Khosi Nyafhasi is said to have fled to Makonde, which was under Ravhura. It is argued that Ravhura gave Nyafhasi the land of Tshaulu. Even up to this day the land of Tshaulu is ruled by women.

After word got to King Munzhedzi Mpofu that Rambuda had conquered Dzimauli, Munzhedzi sent warriors to dislodge Rambuda from Dzimauli. But the warriors could not dislodge Rambuda from Dzimauli since the area is very mountainous and the terrain is difficult to negotiate.

Rambuda paid tribute to Raluswielo Tshivhase who had moved from Dopeni to Phiphidi. Raluswielo Tshivhase died and was succeeded by his son Luvhengo Tshivhase, whose reign was short lived. Luvhengo was succeeded by Ligegise.

Rambuda also died at Dzimauli and was succeeded by his son, Vele Rambuda. Vele refused to pay tribute ‘to a boy’, Ligegise Tshivhase.

The Tshivhases, under Ligegise, tried very hard to dislodge Vele Rambuda from Dzimauli, but failed. They could not negotiate the difficult terrain of Dzimauli.

Khosi Vele Rambuda had 14 sons: Bele, Siphuma, Tshikosi, Makhomisane, Mashila, Nngwana, Madula, Mukhaiphi, Thukhuthwane, Manyelani, Muditambi, Khakhu, Luvhengo, and Vele (named after his father). These were brave fighters who defended the land of Dzimuali against attacks launched by the Tshivhases.

After taking over as the king of Venda, Makhado embarked on a campaign of consolidating his position and ensuring loyalty from all chiefs. His intention was to ensure that all mahosi who had behaved like independent chiefs after Thohoyandou’s disappearance submitted to him. On this very important mission, Makhado was accompanied by twelve trustworthy men, amongst them Funyufunyu, Nndwayamiomva and Rasivhetshele.

Although the Madzivhandila royal house of Tshakhuma had never behaved like an independent chiefdom, Makhado’s first stop was Tshakhuma, where Raluthaga Madzivhandila was the ruler. Makhado camped at Mount Madzhoni overlooking Lwamondo, and called upon Raluthaga Madzivhandila to pay tribute. Raluthaga, as the Madzivhandila royal house had always been loyal to the Ramabulana kings, complied with the request. He even, over and above the ordinary tribute, presented one of his daughters, Dombo, to Makhado as a prospective wife. Dombo became the mother of Makhado’s second son, Sinthumule.

From Tshakhuma, Makhado proceeded to Lwamondo. Khosi Maboho Nelwamondo submitted to Makhado’s authority. Thereafter Makhado proceeded to Mbilwi whereupon he called on Khosi Ranwedzi Mphaphuli to submit. Mphaphuli complied with Makhado’s demand and presented him with a head of cattle. From Mbilwi, Makhado went to Ha-Tshivhasa and camped at Tshamanyatsha, above Khosi Ligegise’s royal residence, Mukumbani. This is where Makhado called upon Tshivhase to submit. Like the other chiefs that had already been visited, Tshivhase submitted and showed loyalty by offering the travelling party a herd of cattle. As the Tshivhase royal house was second in royalty to Ramabulana, Ligegise’s willingness to submit to Makhado meant that Makhado was the undisputed king of Vhavenda. The place where he camped at Tshamanyatsha is known as Tomboni la Makhado (Makhado’s resting place).

From Mukumbani, Makhado went to Dzimauli. Khosi Vele Rambuda submitted to Makhado. But Vele’s eldest son, Bele, behaved in a manner that indicated that he did not recognise Makhado. Makhado’s men also gathered information that Bele had allegedly stated that he neither respected Makhado nor fear him since Makhado was a boy. Makhado had just ascended to the throne and was in his late twenties, while Bele wasn in his thirties.

Bele Rambuda’s behaviour would later count heavily against him after Vele’s death, and when Vele’s sons fought over the Dzimauli chieftainship.

King Makhado got his opportunity to teach Bele Rambuda a lesson when Vele Rambuda died and there were divisions within the Dzimauli royal house on who should succeed Vele Rambuda as the chief of Ha-Rambuda (Dzimauli).

Some members of the Rambuda royal council decided to install Bele Rambuda as the new chief of Ha-Rambuda. But other members of the royal council rejected Bele’s installation on the basis that he was arrogant, boastful, egotistic, and disrespectful. There were also suspicions that Bele was not Vele’s biological son. This was due to the fact that Bele was extremely light skinned, and it was suspected that he was born out of an illicit love affair between his mother and a white man. But those who suspected that Bele was the son of a white man could not say so in public. They, therefore, argued that he looked like red meat and that Ha-Rambuda would incur the wrath of the ancestors if a man who looked like red meat was crowned as its chief.

The faction that opposed Bele Rambuda’s ascendancy to the Rambuda throne favoured his younger brother, Tshikosi.  The Tshivhases, who wanted one of Vele Rambuda’s sons, Mashila, to be the chief of Ha-Rambuda took advantage of the chaotic situation in Dzimauli and invaded Dzimauli. They managed to drive Bele out of Dzimauli and installed Mashila, whose mother was a Tshivhase, as the new chief of Ha-Rambuda. Bele and Tshikosi Rambuda, whose mother was King Makhado’s sister, fled to their maternal uncle at Tshirululuni. Tshikosi settled at Luatame, Makhado’s main royal residence on Mount Songozwi, while Bele settled at Mpheni village, east of Luatame.

Bele Rambuda was, however, not happy that he had been dislodged from Dzimauli. He was depressed all the time and desperately wanted to return to Dzimauli. After trying hard to convince whoever cared to listen, to help him return to Dzimauli, he invited Swazis from Swaziland and Ndebeles from Zimbabwe to help him fight Mashila and the Tshivhases. But he created more enemies than friends. When word got out that Bele had invited Swazi and Ndebele mercenaries, Venda people everywhere got scared because they thought he wanted the mercenaries to conquer the whole of Venda. This, coupled with Bele’s behaviour when Makhado paid Vele Rambuda a visit, led to King Makhado concluding that Bele should be eliminated.

After failing to get the support of both the Swazis and the Ndebeles, Bele returned from Zimbabwe and settled at Mphego village. King Makhado and Bele’s younger brother, Tshikosi, lured Bele to his death by promising him the chieftainship of Tshiendeulu and Maname. They also promised to help him recover Ha-Rambuda.

Bele believed that he would be crowned as Khosi of Tshiendeulu and Maņame by Makhado. A ‘coronation party’ was thrown for him at Mphego village. He was made to consume huge amounts of sorghum beer on the day of the ‘coronation’. Instead of being made Khosi, Bele was strangled to death by a group of men led by Mashige, one of the commanders of Makhado’s battalions.

After Bele Rambuda’s death, Makhado tasked his eldest son, Mphephu, with leading the Mavhoi battalion in assisting Tshikosi Rambuda to wrestle control of Ha-Rambuda from Mashila Rambuda’s widow, Nyatshitahela. Mphephu led the Mavhoi battalion whose mission was to re-conquer and reunite Ha-Rambuda under Tshikosi’s chieftaincy. The first Ha-Rambuda village to come under attack was Gogogo, which had been wrestled from its rightful ruler, Negogogo, by Tshikosi’s half-brother, Siphuma Rambuda. Siphuma was defeated and he fled to Tshamulungwi. Negogogo was restored to his place by Mphephu and Tshikosi.

The Mavhoi battalion later liberated other Rambuda villages such as Ha-Madala, Pile, Tshixwadza, Dzamba, and Luheni. The liberation of these villages led to Mashila’s widow, Nyatshitahela, getting scared of Mphephu’s fighters. She decided to flee Ha-Rambuda’s main royal capital, Dzimauli, and sought refuge at Ha-Tshivhasa.

Mavhoi battalion’s next target in the liberation of Ha-Rambuda was Tshamulungwi, where they needed to kick Siphuma out. But Mphephu’s first attempt, at capturing Tshamulungwi, failed since Siphuma’s residence was heavily fortified.  The Mavhoi battalion lost two men, including the brother of King Makhado’s wife, Nwaphunga.

Even though Siphuma had managed to repel the attack on his residence at Tshamulungwi, he still feared the Mavhoi battalion. He did not feel safe and he decided to flee to Dzimauli which had been abandoned by Nyatshitahela, Mashila’s widow. A gentleman by the name of Tshimunye, and who was Siphuma’s ally, was installed as the chief of Tshamulungwi.

Meanwhile, King Makhado punished Mphephu for his failure to capture Tshamulungwi. He sent him back and told not him not to come back if he failed again to capture Tshamulungwi and to liberate Ha-Rambuda. The Mavhoi battalion went back to Tshamulungwi to attack Tshimunye. The Mavhoi battalion besieged Tshamulungwi for six days and blocked all access to rivers and streams. Tshimunye’s fighters ran out of water and decided to surrender on the seventh day. The Mavhoi battalion, which was full of vengeance, broke with tradition by killing people who had surrendered. Tshimunye and thirteen of his trusted lieutenants were also killed. Tshamulungwi was captured, and the last target in the liberation of Ha-Rambuda was Dzimauli itself.

After thorough preparations, the army led, by Mavhoi battalion, failed in their first attempt at conquering Dzimauli. They also lost three generals, Nemakololwe, Gombami and Madzida. This was due to the fact that Dzimauli’s terrain was very difficult to negotiate, and the royal capital was situated next to Tshavhadinda caves, which was extremely difficult for invaders to access.

Mavhoi fighters waited a few months before attempting to capture Dzimauli. In their second attempt, they managed to get into the royal residence. They did so by hanging and dangling from tree branches. They jumped from these tree branches into the main residence. Nngwana Rambuda, Tshikosi’s younger brother, was the first to get into the royal residence, and everybody else followed.  Ever since that day, Tshikosi and his brother’s descendants referred to themselves as ‘vha ha Rambuda tshiwangamatembele’, meaning the Rambudas who jumped from tree branches. Today the area is also fondly referred to as Ha-Rambuda Tshiwangamatembele.

Mavhoi fighters’ first victim, when they got into the royal residence, was Siphuma’s son who they found sitting next to the mouth of Tshavhadinda caves. They rolled his corpse down the cliff into Siphuma’s yard. They later discovered that Siphuma was not home. They decided to wait till Siphuma returned home.

When Siphuma and his entourage returned home, they discovered his son’s corpse and started crying and wailing. Tshikosi fired bullets into the air and announced to Siphuma that he had, with the assistance of Mavhoi battalion, captured Dzimauli and that Siphuma should leave immediately. Tshikosi told Siphuma that he had decided to spare his life since he and Siphuma were Vele Rambuda’s sons. Siphuma fled to Ha-Tshivhasa, and Tshikosi, with Mphephu’s assistance, became the undisputed Khosi of Dzimuali, and Tshikosi remained loyal to King Makhado, and later to King Mphephu.

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