Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vhalembethu (Venda Clan)

Thulamela municipality is named after the Vhalembethu chiefdom of Makahane (Makhahani) known as Thulamela. Vhalembethu are amongst some of the first Venda clans to occupy the land south of the Vhembe (Limpopo) river. Makhahani was named Thulamela due to the large number of anthills that are found in the area. An anthill is known, in Tshivenda, as Tshiulu, while a heap of soil is known as Thulwi. The locals said the area was the place where anthills or soil heaps grew (mela). The word 'mela' means grow in Tshivenda. From the words 'Thulwi' and 'Mela' came Thulamela.

Research done at Thulamela reveals that the Thulamela site was occupied between 1200 and 1600 at a time when there was regular contact with traders of the East African Coast. Historians believe that Thulamela is linked to the Zimbabwe culture. 

A completely different way of life is represented by the ruins of Makahane, northeast of Punda Maria, next to the Levuvhu River, and the dwelling place of the Vhalembethu. The political structure here meant that the ruler has tremendous power.

The Vhalembethu settled here during the 17th century and the best known of their chiefs was Makahane. He was known to be particularly cruel. When cattle were killed and the hide removed, the men of his tribe had to hold the hide between their teeth until it was dry.

To test whether the hide was dry enough, Makahane would hit it with his knobkerrie. If any of those men let the hide slip from between his teeth, he was thrown to his death from a cliff. Eventually, not even his own father could stand his cruelty and sent his other son, Makahane’s brother Nelombe, to kill him. Nelombe then took over the rule of the tribe.


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