‘They refuse to listen to me’: AmaZulu king to summon Thoko Didiza over Ingonyama Trust dispute

By Nkosikhona Duma

AmaZulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini has claimed the AmaZulu nation is under threat because of the government, but the state has dismissed this.

Misuzulu addressed traditional leaders at KwaZulu-Natal’s old legislature building in Ulundi on Thursday, where he sought to drum up support for his fight to control the Ingonyama Trust.

He said he would summon Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza to explain “why the government was taking away power from the amakhosi [chiefs]”.

Misuzulu claimed the government’s decision to comply with a 2021 KwaZulu-Natal High Court order on the trust was taking away powers from the chiefs.

The order, issued by Judge Isaac Madondo in 2021, stated the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) had acted unlawfully when it imposed lease agreements on residents residing on trust land for the financial benefit of the amakhosi.

Accordingly, Madondo interdicted the ITB from imposing the lease agreements, and ordered it to refund those who had already paid.

In 2017, the ITB, led by former judge Jerome Ngwenya, decided holders of permissions to occupy (PTOs) must convert them into long-term lease agreements.

The PTOs were issued by the amakhosi for a fee of their discretion. However, Madondo ruled the process of acquiring land in rural areas must be facilitated by the government.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and the new ITB were making efforts to implement the court’s directives – a move that angered the king and amakhosi.

Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. (Supplied/GCIS)

Misuzulu told the amakhosi one of the reasons he used his privilege and appointed himself as the chairperson of the ITB in February was to ensure the amakhosi remained in control of land under the trust.

The trust controls 2.8-million hectares of land in KZN and generates more than R100 million annually from those leasing the land.

Misuzulu claimed his father, the late King Zwelithini, feared the “Ingonyama Trust beast”, but he did not.

He admitted, however, it was not smooth sailing presiding over the board.

Misuzulu said:

We don’t get along with the board. They refuse to listen to me. They want to kick me out. I don’t understand why this is the case because I am the [primary] beneficiary of the Ingonyama Trust and the amakhosi are secondary beneficiaries.


“That board passes things without my presence. The CEO [Vela] Mngwengwe and the deputy chairperson [advocate Linda Zama] are most problematic,” he added.

Inkosi Russel Cebekhulu, a traditional leader and IFP MP, was among those who were most vocal against the ITB on Thursday.

He claimed current ITB members were “hellbent on dismantling traditional authority”.

“Let’s agree that the current composition of the ITB is for the destruction of AmaZulu traditional leadership, and to disrespect our nation,” Cebekhulu said.

“Current board members are non-monarchists. They don’t like traditional authority,” he added.

Misuzulu’s traditional prime minister, Thulasizwe Buthelezi, also criticised the government and ITB.

“Since taking office in February 2024, the king has presided over three meetings, but board members still refuse to accept his authority,” Buthelezi claimed.

He said one of the ways the ITB disrespected the AmaZulu monarch was by refusing to fund his legal fees in the succession battle involving his family members.

Buthelezi added when Misuzulu recently called an ITB meeting, the CEO of the ITB questioned whether the meeting had been sanctioned by Didiza.

“It’s clear the ITB only belongs to the minister and the board only wants to account to the minister,” he said.

“The most concerning decision taken by the minister is taking away the power to issue PTOs from the amakhosi and granting the responsibility to officials in her [Didiza] department.

“What power will remain with [the] amakhosi if they are not allowed to issue PTOs?” Buthelezi asked.

Misuzulu threatened he would take the government to the International Court of Justice if he did not find joy with Didiza, but her department said this was not an option.

Reggie Ngcobo on behalf of the minister said Misuzulu’s statement was concerning.

Ngcobo said:

It will be appreciated to know what makes Isilo thinks the government wants to take his powers in respect of the governance of the ITB [Ingonyama Trust Board]. As far as the government is concerned, Isilo is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust and the board, chaired by the king, [who] manages the land on behalf of amakhosi and communities whose land is under the ITB.


He added the situation had not changed, and any amendment to the trust would have to be made by Parliament.

“So, the matter of going to the International Court of Justice does not arise as far as the government is concerned because nowhere has the government indicated it will take away the powers of Isilo or ITB land,” Ngcobo said.

He added Didiza had not taken power away from Misuzulu and the amakhosi but was merely complying with a court order.

This article first appeared on News24 on 24 May 2024.

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