Thulamela municipality is named after the Vhalembethu chiefdom of Makahane (Makhahani) known as Thulamela. Vhalembethu are amongst some of the first Venda clans to occupy the land south of the Vhembe (Limpopo) river. Makhahani was named Thulamela due to the large number of anthills that are found in the area. An anthill is known, in Tshivenda, as Tshiulu, while a heap of soil is known as Thulwi. The locals said the area was the place where anthills or soil heaps grew (mela). The word ‘mela’ means grow in Tshivenda. From the words ‘Thulwi‘ and ‘Mela’ came Thulamela.

Research done at Thulamela reveals that the Thulamela site was occupied between 1200 and 1600 at a time when there was regular contact with traders of the East African Coast. Historians believe that Thulamela is linked to the Zimbabwe culture.

Thulamela municipality was known as Thohoyandou Local Municipality. The name was changed to Thulamela Local Municipality in 2000. Towns found in Thulamela are Thohoyandou, Makwarela, Shayandima, and Malamulele. Other important areas found in Thulamela are Tshivhase Royal Kraal (Mukumbani), Mphaphuli Royal Kraal (Mbilwi), Phiphidi Waterfalls, Tshivhase Tea Estate, Thathe Holy Forest, Lake Fundudzi, Tshatshingo Potholes, and Nandoni Dam.

Ha-Tshivhasa and Ha-Mphaphuli are separated by Mutshundudi River whose praise is “Phandamashango Mutshundudi. Wo fhanda Gole na Tshivhase”, meaning “Mutshundudi River demarcates the land of Gole (Mphaphuli) from that of Tshivhase”.