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Ingonyama Trust millions spent on Zulu royal family contrary to disbursement policy

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Ingonyama Trust millions spent on Zulu royal family contrary to disbursement policy

Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini
Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini

3rd November 2023

By: News24Wire

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An application by the late AmaZulu King Goodwill Zwelithini's brother, Prince Mbonisi, against King Misuzulu kaZwelithini opened a can of worms for the AmaZulu royal family.

Earlier in October, Prince Mbonisi approached the Pietermaritzburg High Court seeking to interdict the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) from making payments to King Misuzulu, pending the finalisation of the succession dispute, which is being heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

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The Ingonyama Trust, which is overseen by the ITB, controls about three million hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal and generates about R90-million annually from the lease of the land.

In addition, it also receives about R20-million annually from the rural development department.

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It was established in the early 1990s as one of the pre-conditions for the Inkatha Freedom Party to participate in the country's first democratic elections.

According to its website, the mandate of the Trust is to hold all land that belonged to the pre-democratic KwaZulu government for the "benefit, material welfare, and social well-being of the members of the tribes and communities living on the land."

However, papers filed in response to Prince Mbonisi's bid to stop King Misuzulu from accessing the funds of the Trust revealed how members of the royal family had benefitted from the Trust via payments for luxury vehicles, hotel stays, and catering for family meetings on their behalf.

According to the papers, Trust funds were used to subsidise the lifestyles of AmaZulu royal family members, despite the allocation of millions of rand by the KwaZulu-Natal premier annually for their benefit.

Earlier this year, the KZN provincial government allocated R79.5-million for the AmaZulu royal household, alongside the use of state-funded vehicles and security.

Prince Mbonisi, acting jointly with the remaining four half-siblings of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, called on the court to interdict the Trust from disbursing any funds for the personal benefit of King Misuzulu.

They also wanted the reigning monarch to be interdicted from convening meetings with Amakhosi (chiefs) pending the conclusion of the succession battle.

King Goodwill's brothers challenged the axing of the former Ingonyama Trust chairperson, former judge Jerome Ngwenya, and his subsequent replacement by Inkosi (chief) Thanduyise Mzimela.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza, KZN premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, the Ingonyama Trust, and its board were cited among the eight respondents in the matter.

Ingonyama Trust response

In papers filed on behalf of the Ingonyama Trust and its new board, which was appointed early in 2023, CEO Vela Mngwengwe acknowledged that the AmaZulu king was entitled to 5% of the funds generated by the Trust for the purposes of his work.

Mngwengwe said he and the new board, however, found several instances in which Ngwenya approved payments for royal household expenses that were not covered by the disbursement policy of the Trust.

Mngwengwe said these included payments for the transportation of Zulu regiments, known as Amabutho.

Mngengwe said, "Further and of greater concern, there were a number of payments made which appear to be of a personal nature, such as payments for accommodation at hotels for members of [sic] Royal family, including the Ingonyama."

He highlighted several payments that were approved by Ngwenya, on behalf of the AmaZulu royal family, despite the Trust having not budgeted for it.

It includes:

  • The purchase of a Lexus LX570 vehicle for the king at the cost of R1 030 000 in April 2010;
  • The purchase of BMW M760Li vehicle for the king at the cost of R2 024 575.80 in February 2015;
  • The approval of R1 400 000.00 for the wedding of the king's son in April 2016;
  • The purchase of a BMW M760Li xDrive for the king at the cost of R2 900 000.00 in May 2019;
  • The approval of R1 555 947.32 to settle the late king's tax bill in November 2019;
  • The payment of R649 680.00 for the transportation of Amabutho to attend the king's body collection in Durban as well a memorial service and burial at Nongoma in March 2021;
  • The payment of R220 600.00 for the transportation of Amabutho and Zulu maidens to attend the memorial service of the late king's wife, Queen Mantfombi, on 7 May 2021;
  • The expenditure of more than R9 million rand for King Misuzulu's legal bills for the succession battle that he's involved in against his siblings; and
  • The payment of R30 000 for a single-night hotel stay for a princess, a family servant and a religious leader in 2021.

News24 understands that Prince Mbonisi and his siblings withdrew their application against King Misuzulu shortly after the ITB responded in late October.

At the same time, Mngwengwe impressed upon the court that the new board had taken steps to correct "past irregularities, particularly on the issue of disbursements."

He added that they had taken steps to bring the Trust back to a place of compliance with the law.

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