Newly appointed Zulu Traditional Prime Minister Thulasizwe Buthelezi on Monday revealed that King Misuzulu kaZwelithini has an ambitious plan for traditional leaders to run the Ingonyama Trust, and not the government.
The Ingonyama Trust administers about a third of the land, or almost 3 million hectares, in KwaZulu-Natal and the trust falls under the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Buthelezi has taken over the position left vacant after the death of former IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
He is currently the mayor of Zululand District Municipality and a senior leader of the IFP, but the king shot down any speculation that his appointment had been political. Buthelezi said the king wants amakhosi to play a more significant and hands-on role in the governance of the trust.
“His Majesty has embarked upon wide consultation as to whether it is still necessary and ideal for Ingonyama Trust to be under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development – 30 years into democracy.
“Are amakhosi so illiterate and incapable of running their own affairs that they must still report to a minister sitting in Cape Town about their own land, inherited from their forefathers?”
Buthelezi said amakhosi have their own governance structures which are “closer to the people and recognised in law, such as the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders”.
“As the sole trustee of Ingonyama Trust, His Majesty holds the land in trust on behalf of the Zulu nation and His Majesty will do everything in his power to protect, preserve and develop the land for the benefit of the Zulu nation.
“In order to develop the knowledge and leadership base of amakhosi in preparation for their future role in the governance of Ingonyama Trust, His Majesty’s office has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National School of Government to train 200 amakhosi,” Buthelezi said.
This training will entail empowering amakhosi to act as economic change agents in their communities; transferring new knowledge and skills on how to build sustainable economic rural interventions for long-term economic impact; capacitating amakhosi to create sustainable jobs and community wealth; building an active rural citizenry who participate in and support economic development through mutually beneficial partnerships; and supporting amakhosi to identify and utilise local natural resources in an environmentally sustainable way.
Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo told The Mercury’s sister newspaper “Daily News” that the trust was governed by the Ingonyama Trust Act and anyone wishing to change this must follow the process of amending an act in Parliament.
IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa said the party supports Buthelezi and the king “in as far as the administration of Ingonyama Trust is concerned”.
“The traditional institution has the capacity to have the infrastructure to manage and administer the land,” Hlabisa said.
ANC provincial spokesperson Mafika Mndebele said the party would respond only when the king made the statement.
“A fellow politician (Buthelezi) must engage us as a politician,” he said.
DA provincial leader Francois Rodgers said that there needed to be a job description and responsibility in the role and function of amakhosi and izinduna who receive remuneration.
“There should be a description of their role in their function in the traditional realm of leaders and this is an important issue that needs to be addressed: what exactly are their functions, who do they report to and who monitors the entire process. There needs to be a holistic review of traditional leaders and some defined responsibility and function since they are now being remunerated by the state.”
Cultural expert Dr Nomagugu Mazibuko of the University of KwaZulu-Natal said the king should be commended for a plan that empowers traditional leaders “who have been looked down upon as people who only handle local matters”.
“This is a huge development in terms of the Zulu nation and it will create jobs in particular areas where there are high levels of poverty. The king is not only talking about the sharing of powers but the plan talks of extensive training and knowledge before the amakhosi can handle such matters.”
Another cultural expert, Professor Musa Xulu, who heads the civil society movement Indonsa Yesizwe, said the plan was politically motivated.
“The reference to amakhosi is a veiled mobilisation strategy for the Zulu vote ahead of the elections. The king is talking about doing away with the trust, but if that happens the land will not go back to the amakhosi but to government’s Land Affairs Department.”
He said this would affect Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s legacy.
“It is an ambitious plan and it is unclear why it comes now. It could also be problematic for the king,” Xulu said.