The world of Modjadji (pronounced Moo – Jad – she) comprises of virgin African bush held, awe-inspiring valleys, spectacular mountains, majestic giants such as the imposing African elephant and the baobab trees, the greatest number of mammal species in all Africa, a unique wealth of flora and birding and to compliment this wonderland a fascinating world of cultures and legends

When the world-renowned author Rider Haggard’s classical novels King Solomon’s Mines and She were published in the 1880’s it drew the world’s attention to the legendary Rain Queen of the Lobedo People

In Rider Haggards classic “She” the rain queen is portrayed as a mysterious white queen, Ayesha, who reigns as the all-powerful “She”, or “She-who-must-be-obeyed. Because the Modjaji spent so much time indoors they were usually fairer skinned than the other Lobedo women who alluded to their being a white queen but this is indeed not true.

Khetoane Modjadji III - Rain-Queens and Python Dance

The late queen Modjadji who died in June 2001 was a direct descendant of the once powerful royal house of Monomotapa, which ruled over the Karanga people in Zimbabwe in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The kingdom of Monomotapa was a very wealthy kingdom and the same people oversaw the construction of the Zimbabwe Ruins.

During the latter part of the 1580’s the somewhat peaceful kingdom experienced an upheaval when a son of king Monomotapa had a relationship with one of his sisters, Dzugundini that produced an heir according to custom.  The old king wanted to avoid at all costs a civil war in his kingdom so he gave his daughter Dzugundini a magic horn with the necessary ‘medicines’ to make rain and to defend her against any enemies.  Some historians believe by giving the secret to his daughter he also banished her from his kingdom.  Mother and her illegitimate child then fled to the south from present day Zimbabwe and established a new kingdom further south towards South Africa.

Lobedu Annals of the South African Museum

For the next 200 years the tribe of Dzugundini built a substantial territory and Increased their power amongst the lesser tribes.  During the latter part of 1800’s the then chief, Mugodo, was warned by the ancestral spirits of a plot by his sons to overthrow him.  To fulfil the desires of the spirits he had all his sons killed and told his daughter that according to the wishes of the sprits he must marry her on his death.  By doing this he ensured that the new heir to his throne would be queen and thus a new dynasty of woman was founded.

When the new queen gave birth to a son that was fathered by her own father, he was strangled at birth.  Her second child was a girl, and she signalled the start of the female dynasty.   This was the first Modjadji and ever since the queen lives in complete seclusion deep in the forest where she practice the age-old secretive rituals to make rain.

To reinforce the legend of miraculous rainmaking powers one only needs to visit the royal house of Modjadi to be convinced.  Located on top of the splendid hills that are surrounded by a parched and somewhat drier region around her seat of power, is the Modjadji reserve where the world’s largest cycad trees grow in profusion under an unbelievable mist and rain belt.

On the political front the rain queen has always held a special place of respect amongst African leaders including the great Zulu king Shaka who respected her and once needed her help with a big drought in Zululand.  Modjadji is thought to have been the only other person apart from the late, volatile president Laurent Kabila of the Congo, to keep Nelson Mandela waiting during a meeting.  When the meeting did take place during 1994, he spoke to her only when spoken to and then only through an intermediary. Mandela did have more meetings with her thanks to a generous gift of a luxury four-wheel drive vehicle and a super luxury Japanese sedan.  Thus the icy reserve that her position demanded was melted with the expensive gifts,Mandela was allowed  to speak to her without the services of an interlocutor. On  addressing the media Mandela told reporters, just like Queen Elizabeth 11,Queen Modjadji did not answer questions.

According to custom and the strict laws of the tribe, the Queen is not allowed to have a husband but did have around 15 wives.  These were chosen for her by the Royal Council and in general are from the household of the subject chiefs.   This strange ritual of ‘bride giving’ is strictly a form of diplomacy to ensure loyalty to the Queen. The queen did have three children of whom two daughters have died. A subject with the right royal credential was chosen by the Royal Council to father her children,discreet arrangements were made to ensure that her natural desires were fulfilled but the queen was not expected to confine her sexual activities.

Modjadji V, the last of a line of rain queens and the only woman who was a tribal ruler in modern-day southern Africa, died in 2001 in a clinic in Petersburg, South Africa. She was 64.Although modern meteorology and politics have robbed the mysterious Modjadjis of the awe that once protected their tiny tribe, the Lobedu, her death created a succession crisis.

Rain Queen Makobo Constance Modjadji VI (1978 – 12 June 2005) was the 6th in a line of the Balobedu people’s rain queens. Makobo was crowned on 16 April 2003 at the age of 25 after the death of her predecessor and grandmother, Queen Mokope Modjadji. This made her the youngest queen in the history of the Balobedu.

Mokope Modjadji V

Makobo was admitted into the Limpopo Medi-Clinic for an undisclosed illness on 10 June 2005 and died two days later at the age of 27

Modjajdi is survived is survived by a son, Prince Lekukena , and a daughter, Princess Masalanabo  and it is not known who will succeed her. The earliest Modjadjis were never seen and were said to be immortal.

Previous Rain Queens

1. Rain Queen I Maselekwane Modjadji (1800-1854)

2. Rain Queen II Masalanabo Modjadji (1854-1894)

3. Rain Queen III Khetoane Modjadji (1895-1959)

4. Rain Queen IV Makoma Modjadji (1959-1980)

5. Rain Queen V Mokope Modjadji (1981-2001)

6. Rain Queen VI Makobo Modjadji (2003-2005)

Credits– Story by  Lethabo “Boogy” Maboi (South Africa)