Rural living in Venda

Growing up in South Africa we had all these independent states that governed themselves and they were divided into the so-called TBVC States, Self-Governing regions. All these states had an independent status but were not recognized by the international community. They were also known as the Homelands. In the end South Africa had 10 self governing states. TBVC States:  Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei. Self-governing regions:  Gazankulu, Kangwane, Kwandebele, Kwazulu, Lebowa and Qwaqwa. They worked independently from the South African government

These homelands governed themselves were identified by uniforms, rank structure and conditions of service and were recognized under different pieces of legislation. (, 2013)

In 1962, the South African Government created Venda as a homeland for the Venda-speaking people. It was in the north east of South Africa close to the Zimbabwe border and the capital was Thohoyandou. The homelands were created to allow Black South Africans to govern themselves and to preserve their culture.  They had no opportunity to participate in South African politics,  lost their citizenship and lived on a small piece of usable land in the republic.  In 1973 Veda was granted self-government and in 1979 it was granted independence. This part of the country is warm and harsh conditions on the land lots of rocks and not enough water. The economy largely depends on cattle and agriculture, until coal mining in the 1980s. Veda applied to become a part of South Africa in 1991. The homeland policy was abandoned in 1994 and all the homelands in the country were immersed into South Africa. (, 2013). There are not a lot of cattle in the small villages as the younger boys will take the cattle and drive them up towards the water for them to feed.  All cows have bells on and in the evening you can hear the bells coming from the water.  There are no cattle in the small villages as they are being tended to during the day to feed according to the women cleaning the camp sites (, 2013).

Today there are 26 sub chiefs, that trace their ancestry to tribes that were later incorporated within Venda. Today they are part of the 11 official languages of South Africa. They are governed by the State law of the South African government. (, 2013) With all of this said they still need to go and fetch water from communal taps and chop firewood for cooking.  People adapt very easily to these conditions if this is all they know.


The harsh conditions make farming very difficult and they rely on goats and cows for milk and meat.  As previously stated by the women cleaning the camp sites, the cattle get’s taken to the water early in the morning to feed and are driven back in the late evenings. The woman will cook, feed the children and tend to small vegetable gardens. Male and female roles are clearly defined, with the men responsible for livestock, ploughing and the building of huts, while the women do most of the harvesting as well as all the domestic duties.

Chopping firewood for the evening meal

Fewer men leave the area to work in the mines than is the case with many other tribes. As a result, traditional life has changed little over the years. Although most of Veda has electricity, some small villages have none and is still waiting.  Every  small  village has a chief and the houses are round and built from clay bricks.  They still have to go and fetch water from centralized taps. The woman makes one trip per week to go and collect firewood and there days are spent cooking, cleaning, washing and feeding the kids. They live a simple lifestyle and collect Mopani worms  in the summer and this is seen as a delicatessen. The little village of Hamakuya is set in its ways and have no tarred roads and children go to the local schools, but each village is still ruled by a chief and have a Sangoma or traditional healer. On my visit to Venda, I have been there twice and some villages now have electricity and the local shebeens make a lot of money by brewing home beer. Venda is famous for its Baobab trees and local cuisine of Mopani worms.  The people of Veda are very friendly and most of them speak or understand English and Afrikaans. They have a very simple life, but full of quality time that they spend with their children and family.  In these harsh conditions they have a soccer field and most houses have a small vegetable garden for fresh produce.

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