Sekukuni was King of the baPedi. He came to power in 1861 at the age of 47. His territory stretched between the Vaal and Limpopo rivers, in the eastern Transvaal (today’s Limpopo province) – an area that became known as Sekukuniland.
Sekukuni considered Sekukuniland to be independent and not subject to the Transvaal Republic. He refused to allow miners from the Pilgrims Rest goldfields to prospect on his land. He collected a store of muskets and ammunition over the years, and was well equipped to repel attacks against his territory. He was involved in three major military campaigns – a war against the Boers in 1876, and two campaigns in 1878 and 1879 against the British.
After Sekhukhune's death, the Transvaal government divided Sekhukhuneland into small ‘tribal’ units that owed allegiance not to a King or Chief, but to ‘Native Commissioners’.