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Pedi people

See also: SothoTswana peoples

The area under Pedi control was severely limited when the
polity was defeated by British troops in 1879. Reserves
were created for this and for other northern Sotho groups
by the Transvaal Republic's Native Location Commission. Over the next hundred years or so, these reserves
were then variously combined and separated by a succession of government planners. By 1972 this planning had
culminated in the creation of an allegedly independent national unit or homeland named Lebowa. In terms of the
governments plans to accommodate ethnic groups separately from each other, this was designed to act as a place
of residence for all northern Sotho speakers. But many
Pedi had never resided here: since the politys defeat,
they had become involved in a series of labour-tenancy
or sharecropping arrangements with white farmers, lived
as tenants on crown land, or purchased farms communally as freeholders, or moved to live in the townships
adjoining Pretoria and Johannesburg on a permanent or
semi-permanent basis. In total, however, the population
of the Lebowa homeland increased rapidly after the mid
1950s, due to the forced relocations from rural areas and
cities in common South Africa undertaken by apartheids
planners, and to voluntary relocations by which former
labour tenants sought independence from the restrictive
and deprived conditions under which they had lived on
the white farms.

Pedi (also known as Bapedi, Bamaroteng, Marota, Basotho, Northern Sotho) in its broadest sense is a cultural/linguistic term. Northern Sotho was previously
used to describe the entire set of people speaking various
dialects of the Sotho language who live in the Limpopo
Province of South Africa, but more recently the term
Pedi has replaced Northern Sotho to characterise this
loose collectivity of groups.
The Northern Sotho have been subdivided into the
high-veld Sotho, which are comparatively recent immigrants mostly from the west and southwest, and the lowveld Sotho, who combine immigrants from the north
with inhabitants of longer standing. The high-veld
Sotho include the Pedi (in the narrower sense), Tau,
Kone, Roka, Ntwane, Mphahlele, Thwene, Mathabathe,
Kone (Ga-Matlala), Dikgale, Batlokwa, Gananwa (GaMmalebogo), Mmamabolo, and Moleti. The low-veld
Sotho include the Lobedu, Narene, Phalaborwa, Mogoboya, Kone, Kgakga, Pulana, Pai, and Kutswe. Groups are
named by using the names of totemic animals and, sometimes, by alternating or combining these with the names
of famous chiefs.

Pedi in the narrowest sense, refers more to a political unit

than to a cultural or linguistic one: the Pedi polity included the people living within the area over which the
Maroteng dynasty established dominance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even this narrower usage 1.2
should not be understood in a rigid sense because many
uctuations occurred in the extent of this politys domination during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
and processes of relocation and labour migration have resulted in the widespread scattering of its former subjects.




The present-day Pedi area, Sekhukhuneland, is situated

between the Olifants River (Lepelle) and its tributary
the Steelpoort River (Tubatse); bordered on the east by
the Drakensberg range, and crossed by the Leolo mountains. But at the height of its power the Pedi polity under
Thulare (about 17901820) included an area stretching South Africa in 1885.
from the site of present-day Rustenburg in the east to the
lowveld in the west, and ranging as far south as the Vaal The complex multiplicity of groups described above

already co-existed in the northern and north-eastern
Transvaal by the end of the eighteenth century, and some
concentration of political authority was already in place.
In the course of their migrations into and around this
area, clusters of people from diverse origins had gradually
concentrated themselves around a series of dikgoro (s.
kgoro) or ruling nuclear groups: identifying themselves
through their shared symbolic allegiance to a totemic animal tau (lion), kolobe (pig), kwena (crocodile) and
others. The Maroteng or Pedi, with their symbolic animal noko (porcupine), were an oshoot of the Tswanaspeaking Kgatla. In about 1650 they had settled in an
area to the south of the Tubatse river and of their present
heartland. Here, over several generations of interaction,
a degree of linguistic and cultural homogeneity developed. Only in the later half of the 18th century did
they extend control over the region, establishing the Pedi
paramountcy by bringing powerful neighbouring chiefdoms under their sway.

at Botshabelo. From here, several groups of converts
later left to purchase land and found their own independent communities including Doornkop and Boomplaats. Here Christian Pedi continued living until they
were forcibly removed into the Pedi reserve during the
1960s70s in the interests of ethnic consolidation. In
more recent times, there has been mission activity by
Catholic, Anglican, and Dutch Reformed missionaries.

1.3 Settlements
In pre-conquest times, people settled on elevated sites in
relatively large villages, divided into kgoro (pl. dikgoro,
groups centred on agnatic family clusters). Each consisted of a group of households, in huts built around a
central area which served as meeting-place, cattle byre,
graveyard and ancestral shrine. Households huts were
ranked in order of seniority. Each wife of a polygynous marriage had her own round thatched hut, joined
to other huts by a series of open-air enclosures (lapa)
encircled by mud walls. Older boys and girls, respectively, would be housed in separate huts. Aspirations
to live in a more modern style, along with practicality,
have led most families to abandon the round hut style for
rectangular, at-tin-roofed houses. Processes of forced
and semi-voluntary relocation, and an apartheid government planning scheme implemented in the name of betterment, have meant that many newer settlements, and
the outskirts of many older ones, consist of houses built
in grid-formation, occupied by individual families unrelated to their neighbours. Such living arrangements have
not changed substantially since the advent of democracy
in 1994

Pedi power, at its height during Thulares reign, (about

17901820) was undermined during the period of the difaqane by Ndwandwe invaders from the south-east. A
period of dislocation followed, after which the polity
was restabilised under Thulare's son Sekwati, who engaged in numerous negotiations and struggles for control
over land and labour with the Afrikaans-speaking farmers (Boers) who had since settled in the region. Sekwatis success in these struggles, and later that of his
heir, Sekhukhune I, was due in part to the repower enjoyed by the polity, bought with proceeds of early labour
migration to the Kimberley diamond elds. The Pedi
paramountcys power was entrenched through its insistence that the chiefs of subordinate groups take their principal wives from the ruling dynasty. The resulting system of cousin marriage perpetuated hierarchical marriage
links between ruler and ruled and involved paying inated
bridewealth to the Maroteng.[1]
By the 1870s, the Pedi represented one of three alternative sources of regional authority, alongside the Swazi and
the ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) which the Boers
had established. Intensifying struggles between Boers
and Pedi over land and labour resulted in the war of 1876,
in which the Boer and Swazi forces were defeated.[2]
British annexation of the Transvaal, partly spurred by the
Boers failure to subjugate the Pedi, followed in 1877,
and the Pedi were nally defeated by British troops and
Swazi allies under the command of Sir Garnet Wolsely in
November 1879 .[3] Sekhukhune was captured and held
in Pretoria until 1881. The following year he was assassinated by a rival Pedi notable.[4]
The Berlin Missionary Society established the rst mission to the Pedi, west of the Leolo mountains, in 1861,
after which the missionary Alexander Merensky left the
area to establish a village for converts, Bothabelo (the
place of refuge), to the south-west of the Pedi area. Johannes Dinkwanyane, half-brother of Sekhukhune, was
an inuential early convert,[5] and lived for some time

Subsistence and economy

Pre-conquest economy combined cattle-keeping with hoe

cultivation. Principal crops were sorghum, pumpkins and
legumes, which were grown by women on elds allocated
to them when they married. Women hoed and weeded;
did pottery and built and decorated huts with mud; made
sleeping mats and baskets; ground grain, cooked, brewed,
and collected water and wood. Men did some work in
elds at peak times; hunted and herded; did woodwork,
prepared hides, and were metal workers and smiths. Most
major tasks were done communally by matsema (workparties).
The chief was depended upon to perform rain-making
for his subjects. The introduction of the animal-drawn
plough, and of maize, later transformed the labour division signicantly, especially when combined with the effects of labour migration. Mens leaving home to work
for wages was initially undertaken by regimental groups
of youths to satisfy the paramounts repower requirements, but later became increasingly necessary to individual households as population increase within the re-



serve and land degradation made it impossible to subsist from cultivation alone. Despite increasingly long absences, male migrants nonetheless remained committed
to the maintenance of their elds: ploughing had now to
be carried out during periods of leave, or entrusted to professional ploughmen or tractor owners. Women were left
to manage and carry out all other agricultural tasks. Men,
although subjected to increased controls in their lives as
wage-labourers, ercely resisted all direct attempts to interfere with the sphere of cattle-keeping and agriculture.
Their resistance erupted in open rebellion ultimately
subdued during the 1950s. In later decades, some families have continued to practise cultivation and to keep
stock. These activities should more accurately be seen as
demonstrating a long-term commitment to the rural social
system to gain security in retirement than as providing a
viable form of household subsistence.
In the early 1960s, about 48% of the male population was
absent as wage-earners at any given time. Between the
1930s and the 1960s, most Pedi men would spend a short
period working on nearby white farms followed by a move
to employment on the mines or domestic service and later
especially in more recent times to factories or industry. Female wage employment began more recently, and
is rarer and more sporadic. Some women work for short
periods on farms, others have begun, since the 1960s, to
work in domestic service in the towns of the Witwatersrand. But in recent years there have been rising levels
of education and of expectation, combined with a sharp
drop in employment rates. Many youths, better-educated
than their parents and hoping for jobs as civil servants or
teachers, stand little chance of getting employment of any



Ancestors are viewed as intermediaries between humans

and The Creator or God (Modimo/Mmopi)and are communicated to by calling on them using a process of burning incense, making an oering and speaking to them
(go phasa). Animal sacrice or the presenting of beer
to the shades, on both the mothers and fathers side can
be done if necessary. A key gure in family ritual was
the kgadi (fathers older sister primarily). The position of
ngaka (diviner) was formerly inherited patrilineally, but
is now commonly inherited by a woman from her paternal grandfather or great-grandfather. This is often manifested through illness and through violent possession by
spirits (malopo)of the body, the only cure for which is to
train as a diviner. There is a proliferation of diviners in
recent times, with many said to be motivated mainly by a
desire for material gain.

1.6 Arts
See also: Music of South Africa Pedi-traditional
Important crafts included metal smithing, beadwork,
pottery, house-building and painting, woodworking (especially the making of drums). Pedi music (mmino wa
setso: traditional music, lit. music of origin) has a sixnote scale. Formerly played on a plucked reed instrument called dipela, its musicians now make use of tradestore instruments such as the jaw harp, and the German
autoharp (harepa), which have come to be regarded as
typically Pedi. The peak of Pedi (and northern Sotho)
musical expression is arguably the kiba genre, which has
transcended its rural roots to become a migrant style.
In its mens version it features an ensemble of players,
each playing an aluminium end-blown pipe of a dierent pitch (naka, pl. dinaka) and together producing a
descending melody that mimics traditional vocal songs
with richly harmonised qualities. In the womens version, a development of earlier female genres which has
recently been included within the denition of kiba, a
group of women sings songs (koa ya dikhuru- loosely
translated: knee-dance music). This translation has it
roots in the traditional kneeling dance that involve salacious shaking movements of the breast area accompanied
by chants. These dances are still very common among
Tswana, Sotho and Nguni women. This genre comprises
sets of traditional songs steered by a lead singer accompanied by a chorus and an ensemble of drums (meropa),
previously wooden but now made of oil-drums and milkurns. These are generally sung at drinking parties and/or
during celebrations such as weddings.

1.7 Land tenure

The pre-colonial system of communal or tribal tenure, being broadly similar to that practised throughout the southern African region, was crystallised, but subtly altered,
by the colonial administration. A man was granted land
by the chief for each of his wives; unused land was reallocated by the chief, rather than being inherited within
families. Overpopulation resulting from the governments
relocation policies resulted in this system being modied
a households elds, together with its residential plot,
are now inherited, ideally by the youngest married son.
Christian Pedi communities who owned freehold farms
were removed to the reserve without compensation, but
since 1994 South Africa many have now reoccupied their
land or are preparing to do so, under restitution legislation. The few Pedi who still live as labour tenants on white
farms have been promised some security of tenure by land
reform legislation.




2 Notable Pedi people

Africa Tsoai actor

Kgoshi a loose collection of kinsmen with related males

at its core was as much a jural unit as a kinship
one, since membership was dened by acceptance of the
kgoro-heads authority rather than primarily by descent.
Royal or chiey kgoros sometimes underwent rapid subdivision as sons contended for positions of authority.
Marriage was patrilocal. Polygyny was practised mostly
by people of higher, especially chiey, status. Marriage
was preferred with a close or classicatory cousin, especially a mothers brothers daughter, but this preference
was most often realised in the case of ruling or chiey
families. Practised by the ruling dynasty, during its period of dominance, it represented a system of political integration and control recycling of bridewealth (dikgomo
di boela shakeng; returning of bride cattle). Cousin marriage meant that the two sets of prospective in-laws were
closely connected even before the event of marriage, and
went along with an ideology of sibling-linkage, through
which the bohadi (bridewealth) procured for a daughters
marriage would in turn be used to get a bride for her
brother, and he would repay his sister by oering a daughter to her son in marriage. Cousin marriage is still practised, but less frequently. Polygyny too is now rare, many
marriages end in divorce or separation, and a large number of young women remain single and raise their children
in small (and often very poor) female-headed households.
But new forms of domestic co-operation have come into
being, often between brothers and sisters, or matrilineally
linked relatives.
Previously the oldest son of a household within a polygynous family would inherit the house-property of his
mother, including its cattle, and was supposed to act as
custodian of these goods for the benet of the households
other children. With the decline of cattle-keeping and the
sharp increase in land-shortage, this has switched to a system of last-born inheritance, primarily of land.
The life-cycle for both sexes was dierentiated by important rituals. Both girls and boys underwent initiation.
Boys (baemane, later maoboro) spent their youth looking after cattle at remote outposts, in the company of
peers and older youths. Circumcision and initiation at
koma (initiation school), held about once every ve years,
socialised youths into groups of cohorts or regiments
(mephato) bearing the leaders name, whose members
then maintained lifelong loyalty to each other, and often travelled together to nd work on the farms or on
the mines. Girls attended their own koma and were initiated into their own regiments (ditswa-bothuku), usually
two years after the boys. Initiation is still practised, and
provides a considerable income to the chiefs who licence
it for a fee or, in recent years, to private entrepreneurs
who have established initiation schools beyond chiefs

Tokyo Sexwale businessman and politician. First

premier of Gauteng province, South Africa.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane Minister of International Relations, South Africa
Caster Semenya athlete, Olympic Games medal
Lydia Mokgokoloshi famous actress
Mamphela Ramphele Former Director at World
Bank. Former principal of the University of Cape
Julius Malema political leader. Former leader of
the ANC Youth League. Commander in Chief of
the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)
Ngoako Ramatlhodi rst premier of Limpopo
Sello Moloto former premier of Limpopo province
Peter Mokaba former politician. Former leader of
the ANC Youth League
Lesetja Kganyago Governor of the Reserve Bank
of South Africa.
Sefako Makgatho - second President of the African
National Congress, born in Ga-Mphahlele village
Thabo Sefolosha American basketball player. His
farther Patrick Sefolosha was a musician from South
Kgalema Motlanthe former Deputy President and
President of RSA
Richard Maponya one of South Africas richest
businessmen and founder and rst president of the
National African Federated Chamber of Commerce
(NAFCOC). Born in Lenyeye, Tzaneen.
King Matsebe Sekhukhune son of King Sekwati. He fought two wars: rst successfully in 1876
against the SAR and their Swazi allies, then unsuccessfully against the British and Swazi in 1879 during the Sekukuni Wars.
Queen Modjadji famous rain queen
Aaron Motsoaledi Minister of Health, RSA
Elias Motsoaledi - South African anti-apartheid activist and one of the eight men sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Trial
Malegapuru William Makgoba - Doctor

Letlapa Mphahlele former President of the Pan
Africanist Congress (PAC).

Trachoma in the South African Bantu; a survey in


David Makhura premier of Gauteng Province

The Pedi

Cassel Mathale former premier of Limpopo

Hugh Masekela well-known musician
Gift Ngoepe - the rst black South African, and the
sixth South African to sign a professional baseball
contract when he signed in October 2008
Kenneth Meshoe politician
Cassel Mathale third premier of Limpopo
Thabo Makgoba - South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Caiphus Semenya well-known musician
Sello Rasethaba businessman

See also

Batau tribe


[1] Maroteng Empire/Bapedi Kingdom. Retrieved 2014-01-02.


[2] Military History Journal, Vol 2 No 5 The Sekhukhune

Wars Part I. Retrieved 2013-0218.
[3] The Sekukuni? Wars Part II.
Retrieved 2013-02-18.
[4] Delius, Peter The Land Belongs to Us ; The Pedi Polity, the
Boers and the British in the Nineteenth Century Transvaal
London 1984 pp251-2 ISBN 0435940503
[5] Delius, Peter The Land Belongs to Us ; The Pedi Polity, the
Boers and the British in the Nineteenth Century Transvaal
London 1984 pp120 ISBN 0435940503
[6] Noel Roberts & C. A. T. Winter, ''The kgoma, or initiation rites of the Bapedi of Sekukuniland''". Retrieved 2013-02-18.

External links
Death and burial customs of the Bapedi of Sekukuniland
The Loreto Mission, Glen Cowie, Sekukuniland


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JaconaFrere, K0k3ts07044, Jmatabane, AKS.9955, BooysenN, Seripa.mamabolo, CAPTAIN RAJU, SlyBrah5y6, Malesala madiba, Percy
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