She will be formally crowned when she turns 18, having ascended to the throne as a 3-month-old infant when her mother, the previous queen, died in 2005.
Until her coronation, Masalanabo is not making public statements. However, she agreed to a rare meeting in the suburb outside Joburg, where she lives during term time with her guardian Mathole Motshekga, who speaks on her behalf.
“She knows that this is her position by birth, so she doesn’t have to hurry,” said Motshekga, describing her as the “earthly representative of the rain goddess”.
“She wants to be well-prepared because the world is modern and her subjects are going to be educated people, so she wants to be educated so that she matches with the times.”
Masalanabo will sit on the dynasty’s throne in her ancestral village of Modjadjiskloof in the fertile valley of Molototsi, 400km north of Joburg.
The monarchy, which originated in what is today south-eastern Zimbabwe, has been ruled by women for more than 200 years.
Last year, after a long campaign and a succession dispute, the Balobedu queen was officially recognised under South African law. This means the royal family will qualify – when the queen turns 18 – for government money under the 1996 constitution which was designed to involve tribal rulers in the newly democratic South Africa.
“For the first time in the history of South Africa, we have a legally accepted queenship,” said Motshekga, who is an ANC lawmaker and from the Balobedu tribe.
He said Masalanabo had friends and was on social media but that she was also preparing for how to balance her royal duties with the realities of everyday life.
When not at school or playing with her friends, she spends time with Motshekga’s wife, Angie Motshekga, who is the country’s basic education minister and is Masalanabo’s custodian mother.
“They discuss everything from politics to traditions,” he said.
Traditionally the Modjadji conduct rainmaking rituals during the southern hemisphere’s spring.
The ceremonies – which are restricted to the members of the royal family, with the queen leading the rain prayers – are held at five shrines over five weekends.
On the final day, if all goes to plan, the first rains of the season fall – It was a welcome news in South Africa, which has suffered a series of severe droughts recently.