Velaphi Lionel Ratshefola was born in Soweto. He grew up in Soweto and in the North West area of Lichtenburg and Mafikeng.
Velaphi was brought up by his mother and thus spent an extensive period with his maternal relatives.
His mother Mankeng Rebecca Ratshefola was a child to Benjamin Rakomana Ratshefola and Ester Ratshefola. Benjamin Rakomana Ratshefola had two farms – Putfontein(Botshabelo) in Lictenburg and a farm in the Koster area.
Velaphi stayed a few years in Putfontein(Botshabelo) with his mother and siblings. His mother farmed with pigs and chickens. She also planted vegetables extensively to feed the family. Whilst they did not have cattle at home, Velaphi spend an extensive period of time with his cousins to help look after his uncle’s cattle. The buck for farming caught up with Velaphi from there on.
In 1975 to 1977 Velaphi went back to Soweto to live with his eldest brother in order to go to school. He was caught up in Soweto riots and also had a difficult relationship with his brother.
His mother passed away in 1976.
In 1978 Velaphi went back to Putfontein(Botshabelo) to be with his uncles so that he could continue with schooling.
When he arrived in Putfontein(Botshabelo), the village was in the middle of forced removals. Together with uncles, aunts and cousins they were forcefully moved to Mafikeng in an area called Ramatlabama. There he continued with his schooling until finishing his Matric in 1980.
Once more, he continued to help look after his uncle’s cattle like all his cousins. Some of those cousins were Mothibedi, Aurafi, Atti and many others. The other cousin that used to visit from Pretoria-Atteridgeville was Polo Mokgethi.
Once again, the desire to be a farmer was established during those early years for Velaphi.
Velaphi, went on to study law at the University of Bophuthatswana (UNIBO), where he completed B Juris and LL.B.