Kgoŝi Mampuru II – King of the Pedi people

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Kgoŝi Mampuru II – King of the Pedi people

By: Abraham Mohale, Junior Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History


Figure. Statue of Kgoŝi Mampuru II in Mamone village, Sekhukhune District, Limpopo Province.




Kgoŝi Mampuru II was born in 1824 and died on 22 November 1883. Kgoŝi Mampuru died brutally by execution in public by the Boer government at the old Pretoria central prison, presently the location of the DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History, in Visagie Street, Pretoria. Mampuru was a son of the elder brother of King Sekwati. Mampuru claimed he had been designated as his successor. When Sekwati died in 1861, his son from the polygamous young house Sekhukhune claimed the throne. It was traditional for Bapedi rulers to take timamollo, loosely translated as ‘candle wife’ or a ‘great wife’ in addition to their usual wife. The firstborn son of the candle wife by tradition would be the one to succeed to the throne ahead of other descendants. Mampuru was the son of the candle wife of Sekwati’s elder brother Malekutu, and Sekwati had afterwards married his mother. Mampuru claimed to have been designated heir by Sekwati, over Sekhukhune, the elder son of Sekwati and was also in possession of the royal insignia Thebe ya nkwe, original royal animal hides of a leopard from King Sekwati. Sekhukhune claimed that Mampuru was not fathered by Sekwati but by a commoner and Sekwati’s marriage to Mampuru’s mother was not legitimate, as he had not done any customary ritual ceremony and they never performed any cultural practices. Sekhukhune seized power by challenging his brother Mampuru to a spear fight. Mampuru fled to Phokwane village to seek refuge under chief Marishane, and he also fostered relations with chief Nyabela Mahlangu of the Ndebele.


The Bapedi tribe and kingdom


The Bapedi tribe, also known as the Basotho ba lebowa (Northern Sotho), are the descendants of the Kgatla tribe or Batswana ethnic tribe originally from Bechuanaland, now Botswana. In about 1650, they settled in the area south of the Steelpoort River, well-known in Sepedi as ‘Tubatse’. It was based in the kingdom of Maroteng at Motlhaletsi village in Sekhukhuneland, in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Their language is Sepedi, which is one of the twelve official languages in South Africa. Bapedi are primarily situated in Limpopo, Gauteng Province and northern Mpumalanga. The Bapedi’s linguistic and cultural homogeneity developed to a certain degree over several generations. The Bapedi royal house of lineage of Sekhukhune and Mampuru claimed that their kingdom demarcation is from the northern parts, crossing the Pienaar’s River of which a section is called the Moretele River (City of Tshwane) to the Vaal River or lekwa in SeSotho. They claimed that the whole area must be called Sekhukhuneland.


The historical background of the late Kgoŝi Mampuru II


During his reign, Sekhukhune I built up a powerful army which inflicted numerous defeats on the British and Voortrekker invaders. But eventually, in December 1879, with the assistance of an 8 000 strong army of Swazis, the British finally defeated Sekhukhune I, bringing an end to the reign of the once mighty Bapedi ba Maroteng Kingdom. Following his defeat Sekhukhune was imprisoned in Pretoria. Mampuru II returned to take over the crown, with the British presiding over his coronation. But his reign over the defeated Bapedi ba Maroteng was short-lived. Mampuru II refused to recognise the colonial governments of the British and later the Boer Transvaal Republic. Once again, he was forced to go into exile, seeking refuge with his trusted ally Chief Nyabela of the AmaNdebele. After the signing of the Pretoria Convention between Britain and the Boers on 3 August 1881, Sekhukhune I was released from jail and returned to take over his crown, but this was short-lived, as Mampuru II returned with his supporters and killed Sekhukhune I on the night of 13 August 1883.


After the killing of Sekhukhune I, Mampuru feared arrest by the colonial authorities who now ruled over the land through a Native Commissioner, Abel Erasmus. Erasmus was appointed to collect a hut tax, and he found it difficult to subject Mampuru to such tax. Therefor every attempt was made to arrest him and bring him to justice. Mampuru II fled again for a third time and sought refuge with Nyabela. The AmaNdebele king refused several times to hand over Mampuru II to the Boers, telling them he had swallowed him, and he was in his stomach. This eventually led to a months-long siege by the Boers in which the AmaNdebele suffered a great defeat at Nyabela’s headquarters at KoNomtjarhelo, present day Roossenekal (Limpopo Province). Mampuru II, Nyabela and Marishane were arrested and taken to Pretoria. Marishane was sentenced to seven years in prison for harbouring Mampuru II, while Nyabela was sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison. Mampuru II was sentenced to death by hanging for rebelling against the colonial regimes and for the murder of his brother Sekhukhune I. The Transvaal Advertiser of 24 November 24 1883, reported the following on Mampuru II’s execution: “The executive council of this state having decided that the sentence of death pronounced upon the ”kaffir”, [sic] Chief Mampuru II at the last criminal sessions of the high court for murder and rebellion should be carried out; the execution took place on Thursday morning of 22 November.”


Generally, the dead sentence of the law is carried out within the precincts of the jail, but for some reason or other, it was resolved to vary the practice in the case of Mampuru II, and the gallows was erected on the western side of the jail. Within the enclosure of the jail, about 260 white people took advantage of the opportunity of witnessing a public execution furnish to them by the executive. These men of education and standing in society turned up early in the morning to behold a scene that, under any circumstances, is most repulsive and horrible. The government enforced the attendance of the ”kaffir” [sic] prisoners, who had been compatriots of Mampuru II; and they were compelled to witness the death agonies of the Chief. It may be mentioned that the government did not consider it necessary to provide the condemned prisoner with a shirt, and he was hanged in all his nakedness. The New York Times of December 1886 painted a gory and barbaric scene of Mampuru II’s demise: “Mampuru was led naked to the jail yard in the presence of 200 whites. The first rope used broke when the trap was sprung and he fell into a pit below; he was dragged out, however, and another attempt to hang him was successful.”


The ancestral supernatural powers and spirituality of Kgosi Mampuru II


To date the mortal remains of Mampuru II have yet to be located – unlike many people who were executed before and after him, whose mortal remains have been found, exhumed, and reburied where it was deemed necessary. It is still a mystery where Mampuru II was buried. No records of his burial site have survived, not even in the local or international newspapers which have reported so comprehensively about the execution. African spiritualists, prophets and sangomas are all in unison that the last spirit of Mampuru’s death is at the then Pretoria Central Prison but proclaim that nobody knows where his mortal remains are, because his body disappeared in front of all the spectators the day of the execution. His powerful Bapedi ancestor miraculously claimed and brought his body to a secret royal place, and it was this ancestorial power that ascended the king to his kingdom of the dead. The Bapedi nation has since made a request to the present government to assist in research and the location of the grave site of their king. For his unshaken stance against white misrule, former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela regarded him as one of the heroes who was in the forefront of the wars of resistance. The respect and admiration are found on page 520 of his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (1994 issue).


Figure 2. Kgoŝi Mampuru II Correctional Facility in Pretoria.




Today the Kgoŝi Mampuru II Correctional Facility is a functional jail with a C-Max section. The gallows, however. are now a museum, where one can learn more about the history of this place and the history of South African prisoners. In April 2013 the Pretoria Central Prison was officially renamed the Kgoŝi Mampuru II by then State President Jacob Zuma. Potgieter Street in Pretoria was renamed Kgoŝi Mampuru Street in 2012. A well-known South African poet, praise singer, and musician dedicated one of his music albums, Amandla to Kgoŝi Mampuru II. He was awarded with a SATMA award (South African Traditional Music Awards) 2020, for his gallantry and bold stance he adopted against colonial rule. A celebration of Kgoŝi Mampuru II is held annually (around January) in Mamone-Ga Sekwati village in Limpopo Province. The event is celebrated by a blend of traditional dance, speeches from traditional leaders and government officials in remembrance of the totem called in Sepedi Ba bina Noko, an African crested porcupine animal, and it’s a symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.




Boon, M.J. 1885. Immortal History of South Africa, London: W. Reeves.

Mandela, N. 1994. Long walk to freedom – The autobiography of Nelson Mandela, US: Little Brown & Co.

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