Sixteen years after the death of the Rain Queen Makobo Modjadji the 6th, her son will rise to take the throne. Residents of the Mopani District were shocked this week upon hearing that Prince Lekukela Modjadi was appointed as the King of the Balobedu Tribe in Modjadjiskloof. The ceremony to install the new king will be held in October 2022. This comes after a visit by both former President Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 to recognise the Queenship of Balobedu.

In a ceremony attended by many traditional leaders from as far as the Eastern Cape, the audience was told that Masalanabo will be crowned Queen when she turned 18 years. Former President Jacob Zuma officially changed the status from a Chieftaincy to a Queenship after it was demoted in 1972. It was for this reason that the announcement by the Royal Council last week, came as a shock to many.

Spokesperson for the royal family, Phetole Mapeule Modjadji, said that the family never announced that the late queen’s daughter, Princess Masalanabo Modjadji, would become the next Rain Queen. He also stated that the decision on who would succeed a deceased ruler, was usually extremely well-guarded and never made public before the coronation. He said that the council’s decision was final and could not be debated.

In 2018, after the departure of the Zuma-Ramaphosa entourage from the royal palace in Khetagoni village, national media ran a news piece claiming that another family were claiming Queenship over the Balubedo, but the matter could not be entertained by the royal family.

The Balobedu royal family had caused headlines on many occasions. When Queen Makobo Modjadi the sixth died, it was rumoured that she was poisoned. On the day of the funeral the hut housing the coffin caught fire, but the coffin was saved.

Lekukela will take over from Prince Mpapatla Modjadi who had been acting as the regent since 2005 when his mother died. He was expected to hand over the reins to his sister, Masalanabo, who will hence forth be known as “chief princess” or “Khadikholo” in the native Khelobedu language. The royal house had at the time of going to print not made their sudden change of heart known.

The Balobedu kingdom originated in 1800 under the kingship of Maselekwane, who was later succeeded by his daughter Masalanabo, and since then, the kingdom known for rain-making was led by the Queens. Masalanabo was succeeded by Khesethoane who was later succeeded by Makoma and then Mokope who met with Queen Elizabeth and former President Nelson Mandela.

Shortly after her death, Mokope’s daughter Makobo was meant to succeed her, but she was reluctant to part ways with normal life and was labelled as “mixing with commoners”. She later fell in love with a municipal manager from Modjadjiskloof, David Mohale, where two children were born. When she died a few years after ascending the throne, a legal custody battle ensued which resulted in the father of the future Queen, Masalanabo, to win custody.

After reports surfaced that the young girl was being neglected by her father, the legal advisor of the royal family, Mathole Motshekga, obtained temporary custody of the girl Queen in the Randburg magistrate court. Since then, she resided in Gauteng with MP`s Mathole and Angie Motshekga.

Balobedu are the Southern Africa ethnic group within the Sotho and Tswana people and were initially known as Bakwebo (wild pigs). The name Balobedu (which means place of tribute) was given to them by other tribes who believed the family could control the weather and bring either drought or rain. The name Modjadji literally means “Rain Makers”.