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Victor Ralushai (1935 - )

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Victor Ralushai (1935 - ) Awarded for:
His outstanding contribution to the academic field of indigenous history, knowledge systems and heritage.

Profile of Victor Ralushai

Victor Ralushai was born in Mbilwi, Thohoyandou on 6 July 1935. He attended the local schools of Mphaphuli Memorial School (1946 – 1952) and Mphaphuli Secondary School (1953 – 1955) where he obtained his Junior Certificate. Ralushai completed matric at the Pax College in Polokwane (then Pietersburg) in 1958. 

After a short stint as a clerk at Lukoto Bus Service and the Department of Post and Telegraphs, Ralushai enrolled for a BA Degree at the Pope Pius XII University College, (now the National University of Lesotho). When under pressure from the apartheid government the Sibasa Local Council withdrew his bursary, Ralushai had to depend on the kindness of relatives and friends. The Roman Catholic Church gave him a nominal salary on condition that he undertakes part-time teaching at Tshivenda to Irish priests at the Missiological Research and Language Laboratory at Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape.

Thereafter Ralushai returned to Johannesburg where for four years he was subjected to all the humiliations of being a migrant labourer, forbidding him from changing jobs and requiring him to return home yearly and renew his work permit. Yet Ralushai’s academic record and potential had been recognized. In 1971, he was awarded a King’s College Cambridge University Scholarship to study History. But Ralushai had developed a keen interest in Social Anthropology and he transferred to Belfast, Northern Ireland where he had been awarded Ph.D scholarships by Queen’s University and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropology in New York.

Realising that in order to access the written accounts of German missionaries of the Vhavhenda and Bapedi, Ralushai spent some time in Staffen, Bavaria in Germany where he mastered German. In 1977 he completed his Ph.D studies with the thesis ‘Conflicting accounts of Venda History with particular reference to the role of Mutupo in social organization’.

Thereafter, Ralushai took up academic positions at the universities of Botswana and Swaziland, (1978) and at Jos University, Nigeria, (1979), where many young South African student refugees enjoyed his professorial erudition.Ralushai was struck down with a serious bout of malaria, and on his recovery he was advised to return home where he was once again subjected to the harassment and barriers of apartheid functionaries in the homelands. Despite ill health, Ralushai persevered and was eventually appointed vice-principal at the University of Venda in 1986. However, his ill health meant that he was forced to take early retirement in 1992.

He has attended numerous international conferences and has read academic papers in South Africa, North America, the United Kingdom and Western Africa. A leading academic, Ralushai has no fewer than twenty academic publications to his name. He is a member of the National Development Agency; the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (South Africa) and the Limpopo Province Heritage Agency.

Professor Victor Ralushai’s research formed a key basis for the successful motivation to UNESCO to declare Mapungubwe a World Heritage Site. He has just completed a research project funded by the Freedom Park Trust entitled ‘From Mapungubwe to Thulamela Ruins – Sites as Sources of History'.