During his presidential tenure, Jacob Zuma had stepped in and appointed VBS-linked man as the Venda king but the SCA has ruled the appointment as unconstitutional.
On Friday, 12 April 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein set aside former President Jacob Zuma’s decision to appoint Toni Mphephu Ramabulana as the acting king of VhaVenda. The court ruled the appointment illegal and unconstitutional.
“It is declared that the decision of the second respondent [Zuma] dated 14 September 2012 to recognise [Ramabulana] as the King of the VhaVenda Traditional Community is unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid and is reviewed and set aside,” ruled Selewe Mothle, acting appellant judge of appeal at the SCA.
Ramabulana was amongst the 53 shareholders, businesspeople, politicians and traditional leaders who were implicated in the Great Bank Heist report for having corruptly benefited from the now liquidated VBS Mutual Bank. He is said to have received a “gratuitous payment” of over R17 million from the bank. He said he would pay back the amount upon learning the terms of the payment and where to make such payments.
“In my capacity as the king of the Venda people‚ I receive various grants including financial support from various individuals and entities. Any such receipts I deem them to be legitimate‚ untainted‚ and bona fide support to the responsibilities I hold in relation to VhaVenda people,” Ramabulana said.
The case reached the law officials when Princess Masindi Mphephu applied for an interdict to stop the coronation of her uncle Toni at the High Court in Thohoyandou, which she was granted pending the outcome of her legal challenge. The court heard that Masindi believed she was overlooked for the throne because of a cultural practice that endorsed only males for kingship.
“It declared that the decisions of the eighth respondent to identify and that of the second respondent to recognise the first respondent as King of Vhavenda are based on a criteria [sic] that promotes gender discrimination, and are reviewed and set aside in that the discrimination impedes compliance with the provisions of section 2A(4)(c) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act 23 of 2009, to progressively advance gender representation in the succession to the position of King or Queen of Vhavenda,” the court ruled.