Phiphidi Waterfall is one of several natural sacred sites of the Venda people.
LOCATION OF PHIPHIDI WATERFALL
Phiphidi Waterfall is located in rural Limpopo Province at the foothills of the Soutpansberg (Dzwaini). Phiphidi is located within a forested area on the Mutshundudi River and belongs to a cluster of nearby sacred sites that other vhaVenda clans care for, including sacred Lake Fundudzi and the Thathe Vondo sacred forest. At Phiphidi, the river falls and surrounding forest are all considered sacred, and two specific sites are regarded as most holy: a rock above the waterfall, called LanwaDzongolo, and the pool below, Guvhukuvhu.
River flow of Phiphidi Waterfall: (Subscribe to our channel)
ENTRANCE FEE AND ACCOMMODATION
The entrance fee at Phiphidi Waterfalls is R20 per person and there is no accommodation, but you can use local hotels.
CUSTODIANS OF PHIPHIDI WATERFALL
Among the vhaVenda clans, the Ramunangi are the acknowledged custodians of Phiphidi Waterfall. The Ramunangi are a dispersed people, with many members having left the region to work in larger cities; those who remain work in traditional agricultural, ranching or mining industries and are believed to number roughly 1,000. Despite their small numbers, generational memory is strong, and the Ramunangi feel a significant responsibility to continue their centuries-old commitment to the waterfall.
WHY IT IS REGARDED AS SACRED
A complex collection of laws and rituals, some of which are closely guarded by clan elders, govern clan practice and behavior at Phiphidi; the site has traditionally been off-limits to all but the Ramunangi. Traditional belief holds that the waterfall and pool are inhabited by ancestral water spirits who require offerings of grain and beer, which are made on LanwaDzongolo. These powerful spirits receive prayers from the people for rain, health, agricultural abundance and community peace. Traditionally, these offerings were made throughout the year, with one primary and complicated annual rite that lasted many days.
Video showcasing beauty of Phiphidi Waterfall
PHIPHIDI AS TOURISM DESTINATION
In the 1980s, the Venda Bantustan government decided to develop Phiphidi Waterfall as a tourist destination, building roads and installing public restrooms and picnic areas, surrounded by a perimeter fence. This was done with the approval of the local tribal headman, a strong supporter of economic development, who ignored the protests of the Ramunangi. Since then, tourists have been permitted to freely wander the site — even the most sacred areas — leaving litter, trampling vegetation, playing loud music and, the Ramunangi say, disturbing the spirits. Of particular concern to the Ramunangi is that their sacred site is frequently used, in their words, as a “love nest” and the site is desecrated with condoms.
PROBLEMS DONE BY THIS DEVELOPMENT
In 2007, LanwaDzongolo, the sacred rock above the waterfall, was completely destroyed to quarry materials for a road leading to a new nearby hospital. Construction also damaged the surrounding sacred forest and polluted the river, over which the new road now runs.