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The Royal Household Department, which caters for the needs of King Goodwill Zwelithini, has asked for another R18 million from the provincial treasury to consolidate the king’s palaces and build a new one for Queen Zola Mafu, his sixth wife.
The request, which is likely to set taxpayers’ tongues wagging, was tabled at a meeting of the premier and royal household portfolio committee at the legislature in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.
The department receives R57.7m from the provincial government, and R62.4m has been budgeted for the next financial year.
Now the chief financial officer of the department, Mduduzi Mthembu, says the department wants a further R12m over three years to build a new home for the king at his eNyokeni Palace in Osuthu, Nongoma, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Osuthu is a traditional African-style palace, with thatched rondavels and beehive houses.
It is the venue used for all traditional ceremonies, including the uMkhosi woMhlanga (Reed Dance) ceremony, which took place at the weekend.
However, the department now wants to “consolidate” this palace by building a modern house at the back of the traditional buildings.
Mthembu also asked for R6m over three years to refurbish the homestead on one of the king’s farms, KwaKhwashakwasha in Nongoma, to turn it into a fully fledged palace for Queen Zola of the Swazi Royal House.
She is sharing KwaKhangelamankengana royal palace with Queen Mntombfi Dlamini, the daughter of late Swazi King Sobhuza II, and sister |to the reigning Swazi king, Mswati III.
Mthembu said there was a house on KwaKhwashakwasha farm, but it was to be upgraded into a fully fledged palace in phases over three years.
The king has six queens living in palaces scattered around the town of Nongoma, which is the traditional capital of the Zulu nation.
The request was tabled at the meeting yesterday, but was not discussed as the committee did not have time.
Cope MPL Lucky Gabela said that the meeting was an early stage of the budgeting process which sought to indicate new items requested by the royal household.
“As members, we will later express ourselves on the royal household budget in its entirety, not just one item,” said Gabela.
Treasury officials and the portfolio committee members would apply their minds to |the requests made by the department and express their views.
It also emerged that the department was grappling with ways of making the royal household sustainable and self-sufficient without its needing an allocation from the government.
The document, tabled at yesterday’s meeting, indicated that there were massive challenges in trying to attend to the king’s customary needs and complying with the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act, which governed the use of public funds.
Some of the constraints identified by the department included those royal family customary functions that could not be planned for, but which it said had a “devastating” effect on the budget.
“Best practice in other parts of the world indicates a major role played by palaces in generating income and economic activities in a manner that does not violate custom and tradition,” the department said in its presentation.
“The department must investigate ways of involving palaces in tourism and other economic activities.”
The department is investigating the possible inclusion of palaces in tourism projects so that they may generate income.