Formerly known as Rooifontein, Nokaneng is a village within Mpumalanga Province. The community is headed by the Barolong ba Lefifi Traditional Council whose totem is Tholo which is known as Kudu in English. Amazingly, Nokaneng’s head of the Traditional Council is a woman called Chief Mamakhudu Gloria Lefifi. In a country of 27 years of democracy, traditional leadership is still headed mostly by men. In this interview with Mr Boikhutso Andries Lefifi affectionately known in the community as Yster to discuss the history of this village; challenges faced and the foresight were deliberated too.

Nokaneng village, the only in Moretele region ruled by a female chief Mmamkhudu Gloria Lefifi.
Image: Supplied

The name Nokaneng which effectively means “noka e nnyane” (small river) was derived from a big well known as Ntasele located between Sepakapakeng and Lengelengeleng section just next to the Mpumalanga Department of Public Works, Roads & Transport: Nokaneng Cost Center. Blood sweat and tears was shed to ensure Barolong Ba Lefifi originally; this nation came from Thaba Nchu in the Free State Province which is approximately 63km east of Bloemfontein.

It was during the 1800’s when the Mfecane/Difaqane war was waging on that Barolong ba Lefifi tribe led by Chief Kgati and his sons Ngwato and Mphake migrated from Klerksdorp in around 1825 to Kimberly and Kuruman then ended up Modimolle in Limpopo Province. At the time of their arrival they were led by Chief Kgati Lefifi who had two sons namely Mphake and Ngwato Lefifi.

They went their separate ways when the need to migrate from Modimolle – this is when Ngwato Lefifi decided to go the west leaving his father and brother who had decided to go to the east. Ngwato relocated to the country of Botswana and settled in a place now known as Ga-Mmagwato. The tribe as it is today is one of the eight “principal” Tswana chieftaincies of Botswana.  Meanwhile Mphake and his father led some of the Barolong to the East of Limpopo Province – in Sekhukhune District where they kept as refugees – due to changes in languages and dialect, the surname Lefifi came about some are called Lesufi, Leswiswi but originally it was Lehihi, they left this region during the war of 1888. From Modimolle and other parts of Limpopo such as in Ntwane, Barolong arrived at Thotwaneng; while still there they heard that the land/farm known as Rooifontein was on the market, they bought the land and finally settled there, the place later to be known as Nokaneng. It was called Rooifontein as a result of the red soil along the banks of the river formed by the well alluded to above.

Ntate Boikhutso Andries Lefifi affectionately known as Yster inside one of the then dried up well which paved way for the naming of the village. Image: Supplied

Barolong Ba Lefifi Traditional Council since its inception was ruled by members of Lefifi Royal Family, the first chief to preside over this nation is Chief Thekiso Lefifi (born in 1825 died in 1895) who was succeeded by his son Chief Moekwe Lefifi born 1855 followed by Chief Thufane; who was born in 1895 appointed in 20th of June 1941 after the passing of his father Thufane, he passed away on the 1976. The nation was led (on acting capacity) by Motshetshe Lenah Lefifi assisted by Daniel Moeketsi Lefifi until the next chief was elected. Ramaitai “Dark” Geoffrey who unfortunately passed on before he could be inaugurated as chief but he was next in line after Thufane, then

Rakau sat on throne. After the passing of Chief Rakau, the throne was then transferred to the other house, then led by Chief Molebye who was succeeded by Chief Stevens Mputi Lefifi.

Now the throne and the entire nation is led by the incumbent Chief Mamakhudu Gloria Lefifi, who has been at the helm since 2015. Since its existence, Barolong ba Lefifi have never been led by a whole female chief, this was an unprecedented move by the Royal Family. Schools in Nokaneng were named after members of the Royal Family particularly chiefs who ruled over this nation, only Mmamogaswa and Nteseng Primary school were named by members of the family who were not chiefs.

The traditional council has four regions (dikgoro) which has their own head men, namely Lefifi, Leballo, Mphake and Dikobe, of course there are sub-regions within the village such as those in Mampatile who also have their representative in the council. Since the inception of this nation, the following (sacred) are the tabulated regiment’s initiation schools:

Name of schoolLed by
MarutlaSeparate women’s regiment
Mapulana (I)Moeke
MakgalwaBoikhutso before Malebogo war
MerelebaMalatse (1902)
MatubaThufane (1909)
MagolopoRamoagi (1916)
MankweMadisha (1921)
ManalaTshotsho (1927)
MakgolaMoeketsi Mphamo (1933)
ManganaMotabatabi (1937)
MakwaMphiri (1944)
Mapulana IITlhabirwa (1949)
Mafata IIRamaitai (1954)
MakgalwaRakau (1959)
Mereleba IIMoreko (1961)
Matuba IIHarry (1969)
Tabulated list of the hierarchy of initiation schools in Barolong ba Lefifi

The tribe still has the customs of the tribes in the Moretele region. One of the most iconic and sacrosanct practice include the sacred ancestor pole of the initiation came which is brought to the village where it is considered to be a sacred object. This pole is a phallic symbol of fertility. It is also found in the ancient Cushitic culture in Sudan as well as in the stone builder culture throughout the Eastern African region of Megalithic Origin.

In terms of economic growth, Nokaneng has been on a downward trajectory. When asked what tribal authority is doing to improve the lives of the people within its jurisdiction, Yster said “the Chief has initiatives in place to try and improve the lives of her people.” The drop in center in Stateng section is one good example, as it is a center dedicated to assisting those destitute families, members of the community from far and nearer are encouraged to drop in any of their old belongings such as clothes which will then be given to the identified families. Drugs and substance abuse is also one of the most worrisome behavioral problems, the tribal authority works with other state organs to ensure that the law takes its course to address this and other socio-economic problems.

Additional comments and addition by Boikhutso Yster Lefifi.

Click here to listen to the interview


  • December 24, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Greetings Setlhanka Mothibi;

    May I please have Rre Yster’s contacts.

  • October 15, 2022 at 9:32 am

    Mr Lefifi known Yester is a well known and respected man in the community,A teacher by profession he has elaborated our history as a nation beautifully. What I love about its chieftaincy is that they incorporated other tribes without discrimination as you also find Bakgatla ,Bapedi & Tsonga in the population living peacefully and marrying amongst each other. Proud of this village as am the son of soil from my great great grandfather who fall under Kgoro ya Mphake.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *