KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday challenged anyone who claimed to have evidence of a homophobic statement made by the Zulu king to produce it.
Addressing members of the Royal Household portfolio committee in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, Mkhize expressed disappointment at the interpretation of King Good Zwelithini's speech, which he delivered on Sunday at the 133rd commemoration of the January 22, 1879 battle of Isandlwana.
BUDGET STANDS AT R40m
Bold plan to boost king’s image
ZULU King Goodwill Zwelithini has been at the centre of controversy for too long and a bold new plan has been hatched by the provincial government to restore the dignity of the royal house and boost its image as an important tourist brand and a symbol of unity for the majority of KwaZulu-Natal’s people.
Measures seeking to make the royal house self-sufficient and less controversial, and to do away with negative publicity, were announced yesterday.
The king and the Royal Household Department have courted controversy over several years because of runaway overspending, demands for vehicles, costs for the upkeep of palaces and spending on clothing.
Delivering the department’s 2009/10 financial year budget – which has been increased to R40.6 million, up from R39m in the past financial year – in the legislature in Pietermaritzburg, Premier Zweli Mkhize said it was important for changes to be introduced to better the monarchy’s image for the province to benefit from the institution.
“The first of those is the need to ensure that the image of the monarchy is protected. The negative publicity does not do the monarch, the executive or this House any benefit. This has to be stopped. We will therefore ensure that the management in this office is strengthened and infringement of the Public Finance Management Act is eliminated,” he said.
Mkhize added that the profile of the king and his queens had to be protected and used to strengthen development programmes and nation-building.
To achieve this, the government would use the Royal Trust mooted by former premier S’bu Ndebele.
The trust would work similarly to other listed public entities. It would be audited annually and a report would be debated in the legislature, instead of discussion of day-to-day issues relating to the Royal Household Department.
“The trust will manage matters pertaining to the upkeep of the royal household and create the capacity to generate alternative sources of revenue.
“The focus will be to ultimately achieve a state of financial self-sufficiency of the institution. It is too early to postulate when this is likely to be, but this house will be the judge,” he said.
A large chunk of the Royal Household Department’s budget was spent on running and managing the department, such as paying staff, and did not directly benefit the king.
In the attempt to achieve self-sufficiency, a smaller component of staff would remain as civil servants while the remaining Royal Household Department staff would be employed by the trust, which would be managed by a chief executive officer under a board of trustees.
It was hoped the trust would pave the way for “proper and acceptable protocols and controls” to be put in place to govern all activities provided in support of the monarchy.
“Only good and sound administration will protect the image of this institution. We have long held the view that the Department of the Royal Household, as currently structured, is not an appropriate vehicle for the provision of support to the king and members of the Royal Household,” he said.
Mkhize also noted that the condition of the palaces left much to be desired, suggesting the need for a long-term plan to upgrade the buildings.
The palaces would be available as points of attraction as the government re-branded the province to enhance tourism to drive economic development in the future.
Budget Not Enough
According to Mkhize, the Zulu king had denounced any form of abuse, and had not lashed out at gays and lesbians.
The Human Rights Commission said on Monday it would write to Zwelithini to determine whether he had, in fact, made homophobic statements.
According to The Times, Zwelithini told guests in Nquthu that “traditionally, there were no people who engaged in same sex-relationships”.
“There was nothing like that and if you do it, you must know that you are rotten. I don't care how you feel about it. If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same sex is not acceptable,” he was quoted as saying.
The Zulu Royal Household on Monday criticised the “reckless translation” of Zwelithini's speech.
“At no stage did His Majesty condemn gay relations or same sex relations,” his spokesman Prince Mbonisi Zulu said.