‘We are no renegades’: Ingonyama Trust fights back in parliament

Andisiwe Makinana

The Ingonyama Trust Board has challenged parliament to produce evidence of its alleged incompetence, accusing the legislature of treating the trust as renegades.

This comes a week after the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on agriculture, rural development and land reform recommended that the board be placed under administration.

“The issue of us not knowing governance and policies, we respectfully request information – in what sense and more details in terms of what law has the board violated because we are seen as just renegades,” charged board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya on Thursday.

“We are told by this committee that we are not following the provisions of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] but no specific reference of that is brought to our attention, neither do we find that in our audited financials on a yearly basis which are presented to this committee,” he said.

Ngwenya said the questions about the board and calls for its dissolution had no basis.

He said an impression was being created that the Ingonyama Trust was a multibillion-rand organisation with hidden funds, which was not the case.

Ngwenya admitted that in their accounting they projected higher amounts, but in reality they were getting much less actual cash from leased land.

He also took issue with the parliamentary committee’s call to the board to stop its conversion of permission to occupy agreements into long-term leases.

“The committee says don’t collect the money at all, from leases or anything else. It doesn’t say where the trust must get money from in substitution of the money that we get.

“In other words, we must sit in the trust, receive no money on behalf of the trust and therefore fail to achieve the mandate, that the land must be administered for the material benefit of the people, because there is no income coming or additional funding from the government”.

It emerged last month that the department of agriculture, rural development and land reform could not allocate any funding for the 2020/21 financial year to the Ingonyama Trust as the entity had failed to submit its budget proposal on time.

Ngwenya told MPs on Thursday that what prompted forensic investigations against staff was perennial irregular expenditure incurred by the entity with no accountability, no information and that things were getting worse.

He said the activities of the trust were also undermined, including that for the first time it did not submit a budget on time. “We wanted to investigate … we knew there must be something wrong, somewhere.”

Committee chairperson Mandla Mandela stood firm, saying the trust should be put under administration and its affairs looked into. He said the committee continued to face challenges in terms of accountability for the budget that is afforded to the trust by the government.

Mandela said they also wanted details of the full revenue the trust receives from the issuing of mining rights, leases and levies that it collects.

“We should also, 26 years into our democracy, be able to evaluate if the Ingonyama Trust Board has been a success case or a failure.

“If it has been a success and because we are living in a democracy that recognises other nations and other monarchs, we should be able to replicate the Ingonyama Trust for other monarchs.

“If we come to a finding that Ingonyama Trust has been a failure, we, as a committee believe we should be able to scrap this and look into other issues,” added Mandela.

Minister Thoko Didiza told MPs she had met with the board on Wednesday but that they could not deal with all relevant matters in one meeting. She is scheduled to meet the board again later this month.

This article first appeared in Sunday Times on 5 June 2020.

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