Thousands of King Goodwill Zwelithini's subjects gathered in Ulundi on Wednesday for an Umbizo convened by the king. Top of the agenda on the imbizo is the issue of communal land.Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - The deputy chairperson of the portfolio committee on rural development and land reform, Phumzile Mnguni, hit back at King Goodwill Zwelithini, saying his statements about the committee were highly regrettable, and vowing that they would not be silenced.

“Even if they replace us all, whoever comes in will have to play oversight,” he said, referring to the committee’s oversight on the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB).

This was in response to the king telling thousands of his subjects on Tuesday that he was unhappy with how members of the board get “undermined by children” in Parliament, in reference to portfolio committee members.


Mnguni did not take kindly to this jibe, saying “it is regrettable that the king can be so ageist”.

“The average age of (members of the) committee is 50. They are not children and they should not be referred to as children.”

Speaking on the run-ins members of the committee have had with the board, ­Mnguni said committee members had been unhappy with the conduct of the board, which he said sometimes “thinks it is above everything else”.

“Isilo (the king) and the board, these are two separate entities, and it would be better if Isilo was not interfering with how we interact with the board.”

Mnguni listed a number of ­instances where the committee had clashed with members of the board, including the recent appointment of Thembeka Ndlovu, a relative of one of the Zulu queens, as the acting chief executive of the Trust.

“We kindly advised that this borders on nepotism.” The committee also protested against a move by the board to convert permission to occupy (PTO) permits to leaseholds, which it felt would make people under Ingonyama more vulnerable to unjust evictions.

“The board is in transgression of the ITB Act for seeking to convert the PTOs to leaseholds. It is not ukudelela (undermining someone) to ensure that the law is followed to the letter.”

Mnguni said there had been instances where the board was seen to be frustrating its oversight role.

“For example, a month and a half ago we asked the board to provide a list of its debtors. They have not done that.”

Mnguni warned that frustrating oversight gave rise to tyranny.

“If (he was) likening the current queries we are having on the board to the Anglo-­colonial invasion of King Cetshwayo, that is regrettable. We cannot replace an Anglo tyranny with anything that also seeks to be a tyranny,” Mnguni said.

Debate

Wednesday’s imbizo has sparked debate, with some accusing the king of stirring emotions as other speakers at the event called for the cessation of KwaZulu-Natal and for foreigners to leave the province.

The DA leader in Kwa- Zulu-Natal, Zwakele Mncwango, who attended the imbizo, said he had been uncomfortable with some of the speakers, including a representative of the controversial business forum Delangokubona.

“Overall, the event was an important one because it brought together people who live on Ingonyama Trust land.

“We cannot blame the king for the unfortunate and misplaced statements because he could not foretell what these people were going to say,” said Mncwango.

Political analyst Bukani Mngoma said the imbizo was not a consultative platform but “was basically a warning to the national government”.

“It was the king and amakhosi saying to the government that if you dare take our land, we are not going to take it lying down.”

The Mercury