By Paddy Harper
The public process to nominate members of a new Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) has finally started after several months of delay.
The agriculture and land reform ministry, under which the ITB falls, has issued a public call for eight nominees to serve on the board, which administers nearly three million hectares of land under traditional control on behalf of the Zulu monarch.
An interim board, appointed by Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza, has been responsible for running the entity since the sitting board’s term of office expired in September 2020.
The death of the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu — and the high court challenge to the legitimacy of his successor, Misuzulu ka Zwelithini — had slowed down the process of appointing a new board.
Didiza had hoped to have the new board in place by February.
The ITB has controlled the right of tenure on traditionally controlled land in KwaZulu-Natal since 1994 and has been the subject of a successful high court challenge by residents and NGOs to its controversial residential lease programme.
Didiza’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, said the public nomination process had opened on 1 March and would close on 8 April, after which a pool of suitable candidates would be selected from which the final appointments would be made.
The new board will serve a four-year term, subject to a two-year performance assessment of the candidates, all of whom will be vetted as part of the selection process. The mix of skills required include financial management, human resource management, land administration, regional planning and property law.
Previously, the board had been appointed by the minister after consultation with the premier of KwaZulu-Natal and the provincial house of traditional leaders, with its trustee, who chairs the board, being appointed by the monarch.
This time around Didiza has decided to embark on a public process to ensure a pool of nominees with the set of skills necessary to run the ITB, which has come under fire from parliament and the auditor general over several years for poor financial and corporate governance.
Ngcobo said the names of the new board members would be made public once the process, conducted in terms of the KwaZulu-Natal Ingonyama Trust Act of 1994, had been concluded.
This would include consultation with Premier Sihle Zikalala and the institutions of traditional leadership.
The current board chairperson, Jerome Ngwenya, was appointed by the late monarch. It is not clear whether the new king will appoint a new trustee, or whether he will allow Ngwenya, who has occupied the role for more than a decade, to continue to act.
“The monarch will be better placed to respond to this question, as the appointment of the chairperson of the board resides within the exclusive competence of the monarch, in terms of the act,” Ngcobo said.
He said the interim board would “continue to discharge their responsibilities and duty” while the new board was being appointed.
Last year, Ngwenya defied the minister and lodged an application for leave to appeal the judgment in the leases case, despite her decision to abide by the court order that set aside the lease programme and instructed the ITB to refund those who it had collected residential lease fees from.
The appeal has delayed the implementation of the court order, which compelled Didiza and Ngwenya to file quarterly reports to the court on steps taken to convert residential leases back to permission to occupy certificates.
Ngcobo said Didiza had submitted her quarterly reports to the court despite the legal challenge from Ngwenya.
“The minister had submitted the quarterly report. It is however important to note that the minister is not required to submit a report to court because the entire judgment has been appealed and the appeal therefore suspends the implementation of the judgment,” Ngcobo said.