A succession battle within the Femane Tribal Authority in Limpopo has intensified, with two royal families quarrelling over the interpretation of a court outcome.
The Marupene Mphaphudi and Khorommbi Mphaphudi, royal families want control of the chieftaincy of the Femane Tribal Authority at Femane Village in Ga-Modjadji near Tzaneen.
Their dispute followed the death of traditional leader Marupeni “Jippi” Mphaphudi on December 16 last year. To resolve the impasse, the families took the matter to their local tribal court within the Modjadji Tribal Council between January and July this year.
Unsatisfied with the tribal authority proceedings, Marupene’s son, Molemisi Mphaphudi, of the Marupene Mphaphudi royal house, approached the Polokwane High Court to preside over the dispute.
In August, he successfully interdicted his relative, Rufus Mphaphudi of the Khorombi royal house, and others from installing a successor.
This week, the Polokwane High Court sat to hear the matter but could not do so due to a complaint that a court order barring the Khorombi royal house from installing a successor was not properly delivered to the family.
The defence lawyers for the Khorombi royal family requested a postponement after arguing that a sheriff did not serve the respondents with the said court order.
The Marupeni royal family’s lawyers countered that, unless there was a case of contempt of court, a sheriff was not required to serve the court order.
As a result, the Polokwane High Court ruled to remove the matter from the court roll to allow both sides to prepare their affidavits, allowing the Khorombi royal family to defend the matter properly.
“In the midst of a fair and transparent process in court, it is important for the correct information to be shared with the community in the quest to ensure peace and stability in the village.
“The fact that the matter was placed on an unopposed roll while being opposed was the primary reason why the court ruled that the matter must be removed from the unopposed roll and placed on the normal opposed roll at a later stage in order for the parties to deal with the merits of the case,” said Mpho Sekgala, a member of the Marupeni Mphaphudi family.
It appears the court outcome has caused confusion in the village, leaving the subjects of the tribal authority unsure whether or not the court order barring the Khorombi family from installing a successor to the Femane Tribal Authority was still in effect.
Sekgala pleaded with the community not to be confused. He said Molemisi Mphaphudi’s lawyers would soon place the matter on the opposed roll and apply for a setdown.
“The community must not be confused or lied to; the case is still standing at the High Court, and all parties will be given an opportunity to argue their respective cases on merits,” Sekgala said.
In contrast, Khorombi Royal House legal representative Novheni Kubayi, an attorney, said that since the matter was moved from one roll to another, his client can continue to be installed as the traditional leader of the Femane Tribal Authority.
“This means even the court order that was prohibiting my clients from leading their people is no longer active. I saw the misleading statement released by the other family; they are misleading the public, and I wrote to them that they must retract the statement,” said Kubayi.
When contacted for comment, Ruphas Mphaphudi said the other family took the matter to court after realising they were losing the case during the tribal court proceedings.
“The elders from the tribal court know the truth, and they sided with the truth. The late headman was installed as a regent because, in my family, there was no one who was ready to take over the throne,” he said. “It is about time that they return the throne to its rightful owners. We will continue to fight until we return the throne to its rightful owners.”
A lawyer who asked not to be named said the previous interdict still stands.
“If the order fell off, the Polokwane High Court would have made the announcement. That is why the service delivery matters of the village will still be handled by the secretariat of the royal house. It means things stand as they were,” he said.