Imbokodo – Women who shape us, is a series of books about those who have made their mark and cleared a path for women and girls. The blurb on the back of each book declares that South African women need no longer be “silent on the roles that we have played in advancing our lives as artists, storytellers, writers, politicians and educationists.”

Over the next few months, FunDza will publish edited extracts from this series. This week’s extract comes from one of the books in the series, entitled “10 Extraordinary Leaders, Activists and Pioneers” written by Athambile Masola and Xolisa Guzula. It focuses on Queen Masalanabo Modjadji VII. She follows a lineage of female rulers of the Balovedu Royal Nation who have reigned since the 1800’s.

Most African royalties have passed down rulership through male children. The Balovedu Kingdom has held onto the tradition of continuing female leadership. They are therefore a matriarchal society with a long history of female rulers. The founder of the Balobedu Queen was Dzugudini Modjadji, the daughter of the Emperor (Mambo) Chagamira Monomotapa.

The Queen Modjadjis’ lives as rulers are significant as they are divine because their surname means incarnate daughters of the Queen of Heaven (Mwari/ Mwali we Dengal), also known as Queen Mohale.

Queen Masalanabo Modjadji VII was named after Queen Masalanabo II, who initiated long wars of resistance against the Transvaal Republic of Paul Kruger from the 1870s to the 1890s. Queen Modjadji VII is the youngest queen of the Balobedu (Balovedu), who are found in Limpopo. In 2005, her mother Makobo Modjadji VI passed away at the age of 27 when Queen Masalanabo Modjadji VII was only three months old. She is currently 16 years old and her uncle, Prince Mpapatla Modjadji, is acting as regent. She may only ascend the throne in 2023 when she turns 18.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recognized the Queen Masalanabo Modjadji VII as the sole and lawful successor to the throne, upon the recommendations of the Tolo commission.

The Modjadji Queens are also known as the Rain Queens as they are believed to be able to control the weather. They live in seclusion and perform the rain rituals in private. They live by sending messages through their servants and headmen

An interesting fact gleaned from Wikipedia is that She – a novel by the English writer H. Rider Haggard, first published in 1887 – was inspired by the second Rain Queen Masalanabo Modjadji. It was very popular upon its release and has never been out of print

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Tell us: Did you know about Modjadji, the Rain Queen? Which other women do you think should be honoured for the role they played in creating a free and inclusive South Africa?