THE popular adage by Maya Angelou goes that … ”When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, and sterile; we breathe briefly.”
And so, we have lived to experience this tragedy with the sad passing of Bapedi Nation King, His Majesty King Thulare Victor Thulare III ‘Bauba a Hlabirwa,’ at age 40.
King Thulare was recognised a mere 8 months ago, and received his Kingship Certificate from Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Honourable Obed Bapela, following a landmark Constitutional Court judgment and pronouncement by President Cyril Ramaphosa, that ended a 30-year legal dispute and removed the kingship from his predecessor and uncle, ‘KK’.
While the jury has been out in certain circles about the role of kingships in modern day South Africa, the praise King Thulare attracted in a mere 8 months of kingship not only speaks to his talents and unwavering commitment to helping his people in Sekhukhuneland but, most importantly, makes a valid case for the important role traditional kingships can and continue to play in our nation.
His path to Kingship was not a glossy one, it was lined with 45 years of hardships and battles that his Father Rhyne Thulare – King Sekhukhune III (who passed on in 2007) endured until the logical conclusion by the Nhlapo Commission that the Kingship of Bapedi nation belongs to the Royal House of Thulare.
However, court battles ensued challenging the Nhlapo Commission findings and recommendations until the 4th of March 2020 when the Constitutional Court of South Africa, ruled that King Thulare III is the rightful heir to the Throne and that the Kingship belongs to the Royal House of Thulare.
Subsequent to this ruling, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed His Majesty King Thulare III as the King of Bapedi nation on 24 March 2020 and a Kingship certificate was issued on 01 April 2020 at a handover ceremony attended by Deputy Minister of Police Mr Cassel Mathale, the Director-General of COGTA Mr Diphofa, Queen-mother Hlapogadi, paternal uncle of His Majesty Phaahla-a-Bauba, Prince Phatudi, senior members of the Thulare Royal Family and a panel of advisors, among many others.
Just like his forebear and namesake, King Thulare I (reigned 1790 – 1824), His Majesty’s quest was the unification of Bapedi nation. To this end, he wasted no time in pressing-on the messages of unifying all traditional leaders and headman of Bapedi royal lineage within Limpopo and beyond.
King Thulare III was a strong, courageous, developmental and unifying figure and a patriot. He will be sadly missed for his passion for education and his heightened sense of enquiry about Bapedi heritage, making him a favourable audience for heritage enthusiasts of all ages.
Tšate Heritage Site (The Valley of Kings) was a passion of his. He made a commitment to build a befitting museum in honour of his great-grandfather and predecessor, King Sekhukhune I as well as the history of Bapedi Kingship and heritage. His vision was to place Tšate Heritage Site as the biggest tourism draw card in Limpopo.
He had very strong views about preservation of the Bapedi heritage hence he adopted the yellow arum lily genome that is endemic to Mohlake valley on the summit of Leolo Mountain in honour of his mighty nation by naming it the Bapedi Ancestral Flower. The Bapedi Ancestral Flower was among the most visible of His Majesty’s passions as he participated in the planting ceremonies of the flower across South Africa, including the further declaration of the Flower as a token of commitment to end Gender Based Violence during the planting ceremony at Freedom Park Heritage Site, Pretoria.
At the time of his passing, he was also on the verge of completing a new project – the Bapedi Royal TV, a platform that would, among other things, help showcase the proud heritage of the Bapedi people.
He was a man of clarity on whatever he believed in. He was not just a King for himself, he was a King of all Bapedi as he spent most of his working days receiving presentations, representations and ideas from the brightest minds in the Bapedi nation.
DUBAI IN SEKHUKHUNELAND
His grand vision was that of ‘Dubai in Sekhukhuneland’.
Based on his view that Sekhukhuneland is blessed with rich mineral resources, his vision was to build a resilient city whose prospects would outlast the mineral wealth.
He had started with a Master Plan that integrates developmental, social, residential, business and education advancement of his kingdom.
This Masterplan would feed into the District model championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, making Sekhukhune District Municipality and mining companies major role players.
To achieve this ambitious plan, His Majesty appointed a credible panel of advisors such as Mr Ben Mphahlele in the economy and infrastructure development portfolio, Mr Groovin Nchabeleng to handle Inter-governmental aspects, Mr. Matthews Phosa, as legal advisor, Paternal Uncle Phaahla to advise on traditional affairs and Prince Phatudi on the Kingdom’s administration.
Legal firms, Faskem, Phosa Inc and Tony Tshivhase Inc were entrusted with the task of developing a corporate structure in which all royal families of Limpopo will be beneficiaries of the Royal Bapedi Holdings. Bapedi Holdings is superstructure includes appointing various CEOs for agriculture, transportation and logistics, mining, heritage tourism, energy and solar and construction. This holding entity was poised to further assist in professionalising and stabilising dealings with developmental affairs of the communities in Sekhukhuneland. Amongst Captains of industry that His Majesty shared his plans with were Ms Natasha, CEO of Anglo American Platinum. They explored areas such as unlocking the challenges relating to uplifting communities and sustainable conditions of stability and productivity.
Lepelle Northern Water led by Chairman of the Board Mr Tirani Joe Mathebula, Glencore and Implats were among corporate partners that would play a bigger role in the envisaged hydo-economy development in Sekhukhune. And His Majesty was the proponent of these high level discussions.
Against all odds he stood firm in ensuring that the royal house of Marota continues to be a united dynasty. He worked tirelessly for this and his attention has always been on the improvement of the lives of the people. He was very committed to nation building and uplifting the poor and marginalised communities that, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, he went all out to conduct outreaches such as delivering food parcels in the communities within the Kingdom.
He reached out to various Kings in an effort to unify and revive historic and ancestral friendships with progressive Kingdoms such as King Mabhena, King Mphephu whom the Bapedi regard as blood relative through Thobela, the son of Kabu who settled there after royal disputes with his brother Thobejane.
Despite the friendships he rallied with Kings and their Kingdoms within the Republic of South Africa, his Majesty through the esteemed office of Her Excellency Ms Khadija Iddrisu, the Acting High Commissioner of the Republic of Ghana in South Africa, was in the process of the royal twinning visit to His Majesty King Osei Kofi Tutu II, of the Asantehene of the Ashanti Kingdom.
King Thulare Victor Thulare III earned everyone’s respect. And now, as he joins the gallant ancestry of the Bapedi Kings of the Marota Empire lineage, we believe he will continue to be an ambassador of the unity and cohesion of Bapedi nation.
Lerumo la Mogale ga leswe le mphato – We shall carry your fallen spear forth.
Robala ka khutšo Bauba a Hlabirwa!