Thohoyandou became the capital of the former bantustan of Venda, while Dzanani is the traditional capital of Venda and the home of the VhaVenda kings. Thohoyandou name means "head of the elephant" in the Venda language, and was the name of one of the VhaVenda kings.
Thohoyandou was built at Tshiluvhi which was under Khosi vho Netshiluvhi. Construction started in 1977 with P East and P West residential area/location as R293 town, a shopping centre and Venda Government buildings. The Netshiluvhis were the first occupants of the area as far back as 1400 AD, i.e. after the collapse of Mapungubwe Kingdom. They were forcefully removed from this area between 1960 and 1970 by the apartheid government of the Venda Bantustan under khosi vho Mphephu Ramabulana. The name Tshiluvhi comes from the Venda word "luvha" which means to pay damages or respect. The former Venda president built his palace and his ministerial resident at Tshiluvhis chiefs kraal as they were already moved by the apartheid government. The following leaders and their subject under Netshiluvhi were forcefully removed from their areas. Some of the Netshiluvhi are known by different names: Malima, Khorommbi, Mathomu, Magidi, and Mudau. The name Tshiluvhi was totally stricken out and replaced by Thohoyandou as per the then government, and was left as a name of a primary school.
Thohoyandou was established and built at a large portion of the village of Tshiluvhi in the late 1970s. It was established by president Patrick Ramaano Mphephu who was the Prime Minister of the Venda Bantustan. Thohoyandou became the capital of Venda when Venda was declared a republic in 1979, and Thovhele ´Mphephu became the President of the Republic of Venda. Thohoyandou became the centre and economic hub of the Republic of Venda.
A stadium was built in Thohoyandou to celebrate the independence of Venda, and was known as the Venda Independence Stadium. The name was changed to Thohoyandou Stadium in 1994.
Today, Thohoyandou is one of the fastest-growing towns in Limpopo. It is also home to the University of Venda.
Thohoyandou is situated in the south of Vhembe district, north-west of Malamulele on the R524 main road between Louis Trichardt and the Kruger National Park. This is the lush agricultural centre of Vhembe, with banana plantations, subtropical fruit, tobacco and maize lands. Thohoyandou is surrounded by small rural townships such as Maungani, Ngovhela, Vondwe, Phiphidi, Muledane, Duthuni, Tshisahulu, Maungani, Shayandima, Makwarela, and Maniini.