Petrological, whole rock major element and mineral chemical analysis of mantle xenoliths from the Venetia kimberlite pipes (533. Ma) in South Africa reveals an apparently stratified cratonic mantle beneath the Central Zone of the Limpopo Mobile Belt (LMB) that separates the Kaapvaal and Zimbabwe Cratons. Combined pressure-temperature (P-T) data and petrographic observations indicate that the mantle consists of an upper layer of Low-T coarse-equant garnet + spinel lherzolite (~. 50 to ~. 130. km depth). This layer is underlain by a region of mixed garnet harzburgites and garnet lherzolites that are variably deformed (~. 130 to ~. 235. km depth). An equilibrated geotherm did not exist at the time of kimberlite eruption (533. Ma) and a localised heating event involving the introduction of asthenospheric material to the High-T lithosphere below 130. km is inferred. Low-T garnet-spinel lherzolites are highly melt depleted (40% on average). In contrast, the High-T lithosphere (mostly at diamond stable conditions) consists of a mixed zone of variably sheared and melt depleted (30% on average) garnet harzburgite and mildly melt depleted (20% on average) garnet lherzolite. The chemistry of the High-T xenoliths contrasts with that of minerals included in diamond originating from the same depth. Inclusions suggest diamond crystallisation in a more melt depleted lithosphere than represented by either Low- or High-T xenoliths. High-T xenoliths are proposed to represent formerly melt depleted lithosphere, refertilised by asthenosphere-derived melts during the diapiric rise of a proto-kimberlitic melt pocket. This process is coupled to the positive temperature perturbation observed in the High-T xenoliths and may represent a common process in the lower lithosphere related to localised but intense tectono-magmatic events immediately preceding kimberlite eruption. The presence of clinopyroxene, garnet and abundant orthopyroxene in the Low-T lherzolite implies a history of melt depletion followed by metasomatic addition of Si-Al-Ca, forming high-temperature orthopyroxene from which clinopyroxene and garnet exsolved. Si enrichment is a characteristic feature of the majority of the Kaapvaal Craton to the south of the LMB but not of the Zimbabwe Craton to the north, implying a Kaapvaal origin. The provenance of the High-T lithosphere beneath the LMB is less well constrained as it is intensely modified by kimberlitic magmatism and diamond inclusion chemistry does not show significant systematic variation across the cratons. The presence of rare, mildly silica enriched high-temperature harzburgites suggests that a Kaapvaal origin for the entire lithosphere beneath the LMB is most likely. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.