The Vhalembethu . .
Exploration of the Makahane ruins was done during 1963, with the assistance of Headman Filemon Makahane and a few of his Counsellors.
The Vhalembethu tribe built the rock surround of their kraal similiar to that of Mapungubw and The Great Zimbabwe although not as high. No mortar was used in the construction of their structures, erected on a firm surface, often rock with no foundation. The flat rocks were laid horizontaly, in an inner and paralel outer row with the cavity filled by loose smaller rocks, the walls tapering inwards, with no jointing where walls came together.
The outer structure with no decorative motives, was erected on the face of a cliff. The entrance in the outer wall is reached by a staircase, in the closed court on the upper level reached by a stairway is a seat built into the wall, inside the court, opposite the seat is the oval shaped rock covered grave of Chief Makhaane.
The original Paramount Chief Makahane lived north of the Great Limpopo River, during the 17th century. The Vhalembethu Tribe occupied the area between the Levuvhu and Mutale Rivers into Zimbabwe.
The tribe south of the river was governed by two Chiefs each ruling his own area not autonomous from the Paramount Chief across the Limpopo. Chief Makahane ruled the Valembethu tribe here along the Levuvhu River, 40 km north east of Punda Maria, during the eighteenth century.
To the west of the Makahane ruins, described above, is an area that was populated, possibly by the subjects of Chief Makahane. Here in the rubble glass beads, claypot shards and other man made objects were uncovered. Here the Vhalembethu also smelted and worked their gold, probably obtained from the Lembu working and living in the western Soutpansberg area.
The Chief dictated what was forbidden and what was to be, everything was done in accordance with a very strict protocol, even the everyday actions. While on a beer drink, deathly silence would settle as the Chief brought the pot to his lips. His living quarters were seperate from those of his followers, access was restricted to only very few of his followers, this did not bother them too much as they did not always know what was coming next.
Chief Makahane was a cruel ruler, feared by his own subjects as well as enemies.
The Chief was the ruler, chief justice and high priest. As punishment, the offender was lowered by a rope, over the rockface to the west of the ruins to a Black Stork nest halfway down. Should the nest contain a chick, the offender was retrieved after taking the chick, which was a delicacy for the chief, after handing over the chick, the offender was set free. Should there be no chick, the rope was cut and the offender plunged to his death, often becoming the meal of the giant Crocodiles frequenting the pools below.
When the hide of a slaughtered beast was dried it wasn't pegged down, instead it had to be held by the teeth of some selected unfortunates, the Chief would test the hide by hitting on it using his knobkerrie, should someone lose his grip - he was summarily hurled over rockface . . . . .
Makahane's subjects reported his cruelty to the Paramount Chief - his father.
The father was shocked by the complaints and called another of his sons, Nelombe and told him that Makahane had lost his mind and was illtreating his subjects in a way unbecoming a Chief.
Melombe was to go to Makahane's kraal and murder him, not as a Chief but as a commoner.
Nelombe and a few supporters set off across the Great Limpopo, appraoching the Makahane kraal, Nelombe started singing and dancing, Makahane sitting on his high chair in the enclosure, heard the singing and watched the approaching Melombe group. He knew that he had been reported to the Paramount Chief and feared reprisal. He feared for his life but was hoping that his fears were unnecessary. He met his brother under the Baobabs below his quarters, spread out the mats and ordered the beer.
Melombe knelt in front of his brother, surrounded by his subjects, greeting him according to custom.
Then Melombe who was very fleetfooted started his dancing and singing, watched eagerly by Makahane and his subjects. Melombe danced closer and closer, encircling Makahane, watched appreciative by all the onlookers - then - he drew his knife and carried out his instruction . . . . stabbing the chief and then cutting his throat as if slaughtering an ox . . . . .
No one of the onlookers coming to the assistance of the Chief . . . .
Nelombe ordered an ox to be slaughtered. Once it had been skinned, of the onlookers came forward to stretch the skin by their teeth as was the custom of this Makahane village. Nelombe told them to peg the hide, hereby putting an end to the cruelty of the slaughtered Makahane, assuring the population that as from then they could live a normal life.
Makahane was buried in the grave, as where he had previously instructed, although not popular, the tribe still respected their customs and made their offerings as required.
Mashande son of Makahale who suceeded his father, immediately left the site, settling in the Elim area, here his son Madadzhe was born. The Swiss missioneries started the Elim Christian Mission in 1879.
Shortly after being exposed to the Christian faith, the now aged Madadzhe decided that it was time to return to the site where his grandfather reigned and was murdered. Folklore saying that this was done to apease the spirits of his forefathers.
Shortly after arrival at the site, the spirits informed him to evacuate from the site, as too much blood had been spilt, he obeyed and with his followers resettled on the banks of the Levuvhu River.
Here at the new settlement Madadzhe was baptized by the Reverend Wessman and assumed the name of August.
After the death of August, his daughter Mkonde accepted the responsibility as guardian of the Makahadzi area where she settled in a new village at the foot the Makahadzi Kop, from where many offerings to her forefathers were made.
Drought and famine followed the discord of the forefathers, and the Vhalembethu finally left the Makahadzi Kop.
During their visit in 1963, to the site with the exploration team, the Headman first went to the oval grave, opposite the built in seat, in the upper enclosure and made a snuff offering to his forefather. Kneeling he softly and obediently said " I am here to speak to these white people, who want to learn more of you, do not be annoyed when I tell them, they want to learn, and I have to tell them the truth ". . . . . .
Maybe next time you go on the Nyalaland Trail, you should request that you visit the Makahane ruins on the Makahane Kop overlooking the Makahanepoort . . . . . . . .
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
Last edited by gmlsmit on Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.