King Zwelithini to intervene at troubled Ingonyama Trust Board only when asked by minister

By Clive Ndou

King Goodwill Zwelithini says he will not intervene at the troubled Ingonyama Trust unless he is approached by Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza. He is the sole trustee.

The Auditor-General (AG) has been critical of the trust, and Didiza has ordered a forensic investigation into its finances.

However, Zwelithini said developments at the trust did not call for his intervention.

“The trust has a board chairperson and the minister also plays an oversight role in the entity. All these people are capable of addressing whatever issues which have been identified within the trust.

“The king can only assist if requested,” Zwelithini’s spokesperson, Thulani Zulu, said.

The trust — which annually collects more than R100 million in rent — is at loggerheads with the National Assembly’s parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development over, among other things, its failure to develop the land under its control.

Despite the AG having previously highlighted problems in the way the trust was managing its finances, it did nothing to rectify the issues.

Thabo Ditodi of the AG’s office said the trust’s board failed to implement corrective action to fix problems flagged during its audit in the previous financial year. “On the Ingonyama Trust Board, action plans to address the internal deficiencies identified were not adequately developed, implemented or monitored, which resulted in the recurring findings,” Ditodi said.

The trust, whose rules don’t allow the allocation of land to women, had also been blamed for gender discrimination.

Compounding the ITB’s woes was a report submitted to Parliament by a panel of experts led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

According to the report’s recommendations, Parliament should either repeal or amend the Ingonyama Act, which gives ITB powers over tribal land.

Zwelithini has warned about political ramifications should the panel’s recommendations be implemented.

The trust is currently facing cash-flow problems following Didiza’s decision to withhold a R22-million allocation after the entity had failed to present its budget before the Rural Development and Land Reform portfolio committee.

While the trust has since submitted its 2020/21 budget to the committee, MPs want the budget to be amended to reflect programmes which the trust had put in place to improve the lives of Kwa­Zulu-Natal rural communities living on the trust’s land.

However ITB chairperson Judge Jerome Ngwenya maintains that the entity would not be able to roll the programmes as it did not have funds.

This article first appeared in The Witness on 1 February 2021.

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