Toni Mphephu Ramabulana
Toni Mphephu Ramabulana Biography
Known forBeing VhaVenda King
RelativesMasindi Mphephu (niece)

Toni Mphephu Ramabulana is the king of VhaVenda. He was mentioned in the Reserve Bank-commissioned "The Great Bank Heist" report as one of 53 individuals and entities who had received gratuitous payments from VBS Mutual Bank.

His niece legally challenged him for the crown, arguing that she was removed from the line of succession because of her gender. Masindi Mphephu argued that the decision to recognise her uncle as king was “based on criteria that promoted gender discrimination”.


He is the half brother of the late Paramount Chief Tshimangadzo Mphephu, who reigned as King Dimbanyika of the Vhavenda from 1994 to 1997. Toni Mphephu Ramabulana's niece Masindi Mphephu took him to court over the VhaVenda kingship.

Kingship Fight

A dispute arose between Toni Mphephu Ramabulana and Masindi Mphephu, a member of the royal family, who also wanted recognition as a rightful heir to the throne.

In April 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal's (SCA's) ruling set aside the 2012 decision by former president Jacob Zuma to declare Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana the king of the Venda nation.

The court also declared unlawful the Royal Family Council's August 2010 decision to recognise Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana as king.

Masindi had challenged the decision to appoint Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana, citing reasons that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender. She had sought relief to have the identification and recognition of Toni Mphephu Ramabulana as king reviewed.

In the SCA ruling, the court declared that the decision to identify Toni Mphephu- Ramabulana as king of Vha-Venda were based on a criteria that promotes gender discrimination, which 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 Vha-Venda".

The SCA said the family should resolve the matters before the next process of identifying and recognising a leader in terms of Section 9 of the Framework Act commenced.

In May 2019, the Mphephu-Ramabulana Royal Family Council decided not to take the battle for Vha-Venda kingship in the family forward.

Speaking to Sowetan for the first time since the ruling, spokesperson for the Mphephu-Ramabulana Royal Family Council, Ntsieni Ramabulana, said the family had accepted the ruling as handed down by the SCA.[1]

Career As Vha-Venda King

In January 1998 the royal council identified Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana to take over the chieftaincy after the death of Dimbanyika Mphephu in 1997. Toni Mphephu-Ramabulana was recognised as king of Vha-Venda nation on September 21 2012 and a certificate of recognition was subsequently issued to him.[1]

VBS Mutual Bank Scandal

Ramabulana was implicated in the Great Bank Heist report by advocate Terry Motau, which found that he benefited in the amount of R17m from the defunct bank.

Following the revelation, Toni Mphephu Ramabulana vowed to pay back the money he received from VBS Mutual Bank as "tainted gifts".

In August 2020, Toni Mphephu Ramabulana made a u-turn and said he would not be paying back the money he allegedly unduly benefited from in the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank, unless he was provided with proof that the money was ill-gotten. He also said while he wished to have a court review Motau's report, he could not afford the legal fees needed to do so.[2][3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 FRANK MAPONYA, Mphephu royal family accepts court ruling, SowetanLive, Published: May 15, 2019, Retrieved: September 2, 2021
  2. Peter Ramothwala, Venda king won't pay back VBS cash without proof of wrongdoing, SowetanLive, Published: august 25, 2020, Retrieved: September 2, 2021
  3. Gemma Ritchie, VhaVenda king offers to pay back VBS money, Mail&Guardian, Published: October 15, 2018, Retrieved: September 2, 2021