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Lobedu people

  (Redirected from Balobedu)
A Lobedu man undergoing the vuhwêra rite of passage, 1938
A Lobedu man spinning wild cotton, c.1937
Clay vessels in a Lobedu village, 1975, by which time they were only used for ritual purposes

Balobedu (BaLodzwi/Bathobolo) is a southern African tribe and an ethnic group of the Northern Sotho group. They were initially known as BaKwebo (wild pigs).The name "bolobedu" means place of tribute, go loba/lobela. Hence BaLobedu are people who receive tribute from others.They have their own kingdom, the Balobedu Kingdom, within the Limpopo Province of South Africa with a female ruler, the Rain Queen Modjadji.The population of BaLobedu numbers around 2 million. It is estimated that around 30%-40% of Northern Sotho speakers are of Lobedu ethnicity.Their population is distributed in around Mopani and Vhembe regions of Limpopo. Some are found in Gauteng as labour migrants especially in Tembisa and Alexandra townships. Majority of all Northern Sotho speakers in Tembisa are BaLobedu.



Their language is known as KheLobedu or Khelovedu, which is a "non-Pedi" dialect of Northern Sotho. Khelovedu is grammatically similar to other Sotho–Tswana languages and Tshivenda. Khelovedu is also similar to the TshiGuvhu and TshiIlafuri dialects of TshiVenda. Mutual intelligibility between these Venda dialects and Khelovedu is so high that speakers of this Venda dialects can effectively communicate with Khelovedu speakers without difficulty. A TshiGuvhu speaker can understand a Khelovedu speaker so easily or vice versa. Khelovedu could have easily been classified as a Venda dialect or an independent language. For example, Northern Sotho and its parent dialect Sepedi have a high mutual intelligibility with Southern Sotho and SeTswana than with Khelovedu. A Sepedi speaker cannot understand a Khelovedu speaker at the most but he can understand a South Sotho or SeTswana speaker. Khelovedu speakers only learn to speak Northern Sotho at school. As such Northern Sotho is only a second or third language and foreign like English and Afrikaans.

Khelobedu Vocabulary:

Ntau- Greetings

O dzowile byane- Good morning

Bashomi- good day

Ke ya lebowa- Thank you

O kwa kaye/gafhe?- where are from?

O ya kaye/gafhe?- where are you going?

Leina lao ke mane?- whats your name?

Ke kwa Dzaneni- I am from Tzaneen

Ke tshweri ke dikhofhe- I am sleepy

O tšheped̪e byane- how was your journey

Ke tšheped̪e ke e khosi/yesi- I went alone

Ke be ke ile Phalaborwa- I went to Phalaborwa

Naa/Afha bomalome ba d̪ile- did my uncle come

Tšha/Tšhe re d̪owe- lets go

Ke zwebyana zwa mane?- who's utensils are these?

Myana yo ge wa mane?- whose child is this?

Myedži ya ga e ya mmyadža- my daughter in law is disrespectful

Vaana va ile khegoloni- children went to school

Tšha re do ļa zvwelewa/zvwaoļa naase?- are we gonna eat food today?

O mo țhavile ga mofhaga- He stabbed her with a knife.

O dzena mophado wo fheyo?- which grade are you in.

Re d̪iile roțhe- we came together.

Myaha ga moga nkhea ho vone? I have not seen you for the entire year.

Vommosi re do vuna ga maada- This year we gonna reap a lot.

Moloyi a na movala- a witch does not have colour.

Movuso wa Rephabolikhi ya Afhoriga Vorwa- Government of the Republic of South Africa

Ge ļa vooswa- I am eating porridge.


• BaLobedu Ba Ga Modjadji (BaLobedu ba Ha Modjadji)Edit

This are the main group of BaLobedu are led by the Royal House of Modjadji

• BaLobedu Ba Ga Sekgopo (Balobedu Ba Ha Sekhopo)Edit

This group are located at Ga-Sekgopo Village they separated from the main group of BaLobedu in the late 1700s when the first female ruler of BaLobedu was crowned.

• BaLobedu Ba Ga Mamaila (BaLobedu ba Ha Mmamaila)Edit

This group was founded by Prince Mmamaila elder brother of Modjadji I, who objected to being ruled by females. He was one of the eldest sons of the last male rulers of BaLobedu, King Mokodo Mohale of the Royal House of Mohale of BaKwebo as BaLobedu where then known. This tribe is located at around ~Ga-Mamaila and Sekhosese township an area known as Boroka which means north in Khelovedu.


The Balobedu originally migrated south from Zimbabwe to their present location in South Africa. The central tribal village is Khethagoni in the district of Balobedu. This Kalanga migrants consisted of the Mokwebo, who are the ancestors of all wild pig clans (va ana golove/ba bina kolobe) like mamabolo ramafalo and modjadji, the Nengwekhulu, who are ancestors of all elephant clans (Ditlou) and the Ramabulana, ancestors of the other elephant clans (Ditlou), are also uncles of the Nengwekhulus. All BaLobedu are descended from this three groups BaKwebo, Nengwekhulu and Ramabulana. The rest of the other people are descendants of East Sotho or BaLaudi refugees and indegenous South Venda groups like BaNgona. As a results the most common animal totems among BaLobedu are the wild pig (Golove/Kolobe) and the elephant (Dou/Tlou). The wild pig clans (Dikolobe) are the Modjadji, Mohale, Mahasha, Mokwebo, Rabothata, Mampeule, Thobela and Ramafalo all this are descendants of the ancient Mokwebo (wild pig) royal house. All Chiefs in Bolobedu are of the wild pig clans with the exception of the chiefs of Ga-Wally (Ha-Wale). The elephant clan are Selowa(Khelowa/Tshilowa/Shilowa), Shai, Matlou (Ma₫ou), Mabulana and Maenetja, this are the descendants of the ancient royal house of Nengwekhulu.

The BaLobedu/BaLotswi are more closely related to the Rozwi Kingdom started by Changamire Dombo, rather than Mwene Mutapa as has been widely believed. They have the praise lines Sai/Shai and Dewa, and call themselves the people of Thobela, which is the same as the Rozvi/Kalanga. The rainmaking powers of Queen Modjadji are also synonymous with the Njelele Shrine in BuLozvi/SiLozvi (in present-day Matabeleland, Zimbabwe) and it is therefore accepted that there is an intertwining of their history with the rest of the Rozvi. Linguists have listed Lobedu together with Kalanga, Nambya (a dialect of Kalanga), Venda, Lemba, Shankwe, Nyubi (an extinct Shona dialect) and Karanga, as a language of the Rozvi, and consequently connects them to their history. Their rainmaking history is tied by some to the claimed Jewish connections of the Rozvi.


Balobedu have their own traditional dances called khekhapa for women and dinaka for men. Dinaka is a traditional dance of all the Northern Sotho speaking people covering such areas as gaSekhukhune, gaDikgale and Bolobedu.

Balobedu have their own way of praising and talking to their God through Dithugula. They sit next to a traditionally designed circle in their homes and start calling the names of their ancestors.

Traditional rulersEdit

They have female rulers known as "Rain Queens". The queen is believed to have powers to make rain. The Balobedu Kingdom consists of a number of small groups tied together by their queen. On 12 June 2005, Queen Makobo Modjadji died, leaving no clear successor acceptable to all members of the Queen's Council. The late queen's brother has served as regent since then.

The area of Balobedu consists of around 150 villages and every village has a male or female ruler who represents Modjadji, the rain queen.

The Rain Queen was historically known as an extremely powerful magician who was able to bring rain to her friends and drought to her enemies. Visitors to the area always brought her gifts and tribute, including cattle and their daughters as wives (though their role is more akin to what those in the West would call ladies-in-waiting), to appease her so that she would bring rain to their regions. The name Lobedu is thought to derive from this practice, referring to the daughters or sisters who were lost to their families. The rain queen extends her influence through her wives, because they link her politically to other families or villages.

The Rain Queen was referenced in literature as a basis for H. Rider Haggard's novel She.

Queens and Kings of BalobeduEdit

  1. King Mokoto Mohale
  2. Queen Maselekwane Modjadji I (1800-1854)
  3. Queen Masalanabo Modjadji II (1854-1894)
  4. Queen Khesethoane Modjadji III (1895-1959)
  5. Queen Makoma Modjadji IV (1959-1980)
  6. Queen Mokope Modjadji V (1981-2001)
  7. Queen Makobo Modjadji VI (2003-2005)
  8. Regent Mpapada Modjadji (2007-)
  9. Queen Mmakheala Modjadji (Not yet Crowned), Recognised by South African Government in 2017

Famous and Notable Lobedu peopleEdit

Candy Mokwena (Artist)

DJ Monada (Artist)

Mathole Motshekha, (ANC NEC Member, current Member of Parliament and former Premier of Gauteng)

Andrew Rabutla (Former Bafana Bafana and Jomo Cosmos defender), birthplace GaRamotshinyadi Village

Stanley Kgatla (Former Platinum Stars defender), birthplace GaRamotshinyadi Village

Masedi Simon Ramafalo (Thobela FM Presenter)

Brian Rikhotso (MLFM Presenter)- birthplace GaMokwakwaila Village

Mmakoma Makhurupetja (Limpopo Cooperative Governance MEC), birthplace GaRamotshinyadi Village

Matome David Lebepe (Thobela FM Presenter), birthplace Medinyeni

Lebogang Manyama (Cape Town City FC Midfielder)

Further readingEdit

  • Krige, E. Jensen and J. D. Krige. The Realm of a Rain-Queen: A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu Society. London: Oxford University Press, 1943.

External linksEdit