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KwaZulu-Natal - King Goodwill Zwelithini has distanced himself from reports that he had asked the government to fork out R18 million to consolidate his palaces, including turning one of his farms into a fully fledged palace for his young queen, Zola Mafu.
Last week, the Royal Household Department, which caters for the needs of the Zulu king, asked for R18m from the provincial treasury to consolidate his palaces and build a new one for Queen Mafu, his sixth wife.
The chief financial officer of the department, Mduduzi Mthembu, told the premier and Royal Household portfolio committee that the department wanted R12m over three years to build a new home for the king at his eNyokeni Palace in Osuthu, Nongoma.
Mthembu also asked for R6m over three years to refurbish the homestead on one of the king’s farms.
However, the king has challenged KZN director-general Nhlanhla Ngidi, administrative head of the Royal Household Department, to clarify when he had asked them to make these requests to the legislature. The king said he was “sick and tired of the name of the Royal House” being embroiled in controversy.
“On several occasions when government officials fail to answer questions relating to their work, they hide behind my name and that of the Royal House,” he said.
The king challenged Ngidi and his delegation to clarify when he had asked them to go to the legislature to make the requests that they were reported to have made on behalf of the Royal House.
Zwelithini said many people would be surprised to learn that all the money that was said to be budgeted for him, in fact, ended up taking care of the department’s officials.
He accepted the right of the legislature to play an oversight role over the government’s finances, but said the legislature would be in a better position to do this work if the members spoke about things they knew and had seen.
The Royal House has confirmed that it plans to meet Ngidi and has written to the speaker of the legislature, Peggy Nkonyeni, inviting members to visit the palaces.
Ngidi said on Sunday the king had nothing to do with the request tabled at the portfolio committee.
“These are operational matters of the government. It looks at needs of the Royal Household, and one of its duties is the upkeep of royal palaces. The department then makes suggestions to the portfolio committee and treasury on what is needed to keep these palaces in good condition,” said Ngidi.
He said this was what departments did for items over and above what had been budgeted for. - The Mercury