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Chief Makhado

Chief Makhado Ramabulana (c1825-1895)


Makhado, Davhana, Khangale and Nthabalala were the sons of Chief Ramabulana. Davhana was the eldest son and should have taken over the reign. Makhado was the one who assumed the reign of the Ramabulana chiefdom, with the assistance of Makhadzi Nyakhulu. He was considered to be brave and was the most popular among his brothers.

The Boers had become embroiled in internal Vha Venda dynastic struggles. They opposed the succession of Makhado and supported Davhana who was the rival claimant, in an endeavour to stamp their authority over VhaVenda.When the Transvaal Republic (ZAR) authority sent the personnel of the Location Commission to take census, to count huts and to collect taxes from VhaVenda, Makhado refused them access to his terrain. Paul Kruger arrived with Boer reinforcements in 1867 and sent a delegation of Boers to negotiate with Chief Makhado. Makhado responded by sending a group of young boys. The Boers were insulted and interpreted this response as a sign of contempt.Makhado defended VhaVenda territory with his battalions.

The Manenu battalion, which was the strongest, was situated at Tshianane, north of Soutpansberg. The warriors of Manenu were popular for their fighting prowess. They used spears, battle axes, bows and arrows as their weapons. The shield was the symbol of this battalion, symbolising the safeguarding of their chiefdom and VhaVenda.The Maunavhathu battalion was situated at the present Vuwani area. The Maunavhathu warriors were known for their fearlessness and ruthlessness. The Mavhoi was a senior battalion. It formed part of the security at Chief Makhado’s kraal. This battalion collected all the spears from the defeated enemies.

The gulf between the Boers and VhaVenda widened and war became imminent. Paul Kruger sent a group of Boers to the royal kraal of chief Makhado, in another attempt to re-establish the ZAR’s authority over VhaVenda. Makhado demanded the release of his elder brother Davhana who was arrested and accused of stealing cattle. This incident aggravated the tension between the two groups. Finally, the prowess of the VhaVenda forced the Boers under Kruger to withdraw from Soutpansberg and abandon their settlements in VhaVenda on 15 July 1867.

Makhado’s battalions besieged Schoemasdal and set it on fire that evening. Makhado was nicknamed Tshilwavhusika meaning 'Night Fighter' of Ramabulana. He was popularly known as the 'Lion of the North', and his warriors were also known as the 'powerful ones'.

Makhado was allegedly poisoned and died in 1895.

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