The Pedi once held sway over most of the area flanked by the Limpopo, Vaal and Komati rivers. Their power centralized in what is today known as Sekhukhuneland, its heartland between the Olifants and Steelpoort rivers.
Although subordinate groups appeared to enjoy being self-governed, social controls maintained Pedi authority. Foremost was the Pedi insistence that subordinate chiefs take their principal wives from the ruling dynasty. Over generations, this evolved into a system in which the son and heir of a subject chief was compelled to marry a cousin, and to make an inflated bridewealth payment to the Maroteng for this privilege.
Pedi rulers and chiefs were thus tied into a relationship of inequality. In addition to bridewealth, lesser chiefs were expected to pay tribute to the paramount in other ways as well, and to keep him informed on all important events, such as the inauguration of initiation lodges.
In theory, the paramount chief's court was one of appeal for subordinate peoples but, in practice, its jurisdiction tended to be restricted to political issues, such as relations between groups, boundary disputes and succession to chieftainship. Communication between the paramount chief and lesser chiefs took place by means of an elaborate system of intermediaries 'batseta'.