Accepted paper:

Louis Trichardt and the Dzanani Venda


Carla Joubert (Western University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to address the role of the Louis Trichardt trek party in the conflict between Dzanani Venda brothers Ramabulana and Ramavhoya, who both sought to be khosi (king) over the Dzanani Venda nation from 1836 to 1837, and the long term consequence of that disruption on Venda leadership.

Paper long abstract:

In late 1836, Louis Trichardt arrived with a small trek party to the southern edge of the Soutpansberg region of Southern Africa. Trichardt is of the geographically most far-reaching participants in the Groot Trek, and the only one to keep a detailed diary. The diary is invaluable for showing how the voortrekker settler colonialism in the South African interior, the Indigenous named Dzanani region, disrupted local Indigenous hierarchies and power structures. Until 1829, the Venda leader was the khosi Munzhedzi Mpofu. After his death, a power struggle ensued between his two sons, Ramavhoya and Ramabulana. Ramavhoya succeeded his father as khosi of the Dzanani Venda, but tension remained between the brothers. When Trichardt arrived in 1836, the Venda factions vacated territory occupied by Trichardt's trek party. Ramabulana secured an alliance with Trichardt and the Mashaba Basotho, near the modern-day border with Zimbabwe and Limpopo. The strong alliance helped Ramabulana dethrone and execute his brother, and rule over the Dzanani Venda until 1864. An analysis of the diary shows how the early settler colonial pursuits of the Dutch settlers influenced land distribution, and Indigenous power structures in the Soutpansberg region for the remainder of the nineteenth century. It seeks to answer the question: was the Mfecane the single consequence of the choices of Shaka Zulu? It will show that the Mfecane happened in a more interconnected context with the settler colonial pursuits of the Boers in the South African interior.

panel His04
From the ashes reborn: reconsidering the "Time of Troubles" in Southern Africa in the context of global history