By Graeme Hosken, Thabo Masemola and Sipho Khumalo

A lack of senior KwaZulu-Natal Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) faces at King Goodwill Zwelithini's birthday bash in Newcastle at the weekend has puzzled some senior officials.

Dumisani Makhaye, African National Congress (ANC) provicial housing minister, said he did not know why the IFP cabinet ministers had not gone to the king's birthday party: "I was very surprised to learn that they did not go, because one would think that they would go because he is king of the Zulus."

IFP spokesperson Reverend Musa Zondi said there were "bad vibes" between the provincial government and the royal house regarding how the king should work under the constitutional monarchy.

"There should be a close working relationship between the cabinet and the royal house on how these things should be organised. I have raised this issue personally with the provincial ANC leadership," said Zondi.

He said the cabinet had apparently been told after all the arrangments had been finalised and the cabinet was "just invited".

Zondi said "these things needed to be sorted out", adding that the system of constitutional monarchy imposed limitations on how the royal house should work.

Zwelithini's secretary, Nhlamvuyelanga Sithole, said everyone in the cabinet had been invited to the birthday celebration: "The local IFP leadership attended the king's birthday, but unfortunately none of the cabinet members was able to attend because of 'prior arrangements'. So far, only Premier Lionel Mtshali has apologised for not being able to attend."

Mahlathi Tembe, public relations officer for Mtshali, said Mtshali had had several engagements that prevented him from attending.

"He attended an important church meeting in Mariannhill on Saturday that prevented him from going," said Tembe.

Tobias Mazibuko, spokesperson for Inkosi Nyanga Ngubane, provincial Minister of safety and security, traditional affairs and local government, said Ngubane could not attend because he had other commitments. "He had a councillors' meeting on Saturday and (on Sunday) attended a meeting in Gauteng."

Makhaye said he did not know why the IFP cabinet ministers did not go.

"I know that none of the political parties paid for the king's birthday because it is usually his subjects who contribute," he said.

Narend Singh, IFP Minister of Agriculture and Environment, said he was invited, but could not attend because he had made family arrangements.

Vivien Reddy, chair of the Monte Vista Casino in Newcastle, where part of Zwelithini's birthday bash was held, said the various functions were sponsored by different companies.

"Telkom sponsored the main banquet, while Standard Bank and Akhani Leisure - which was awarded the casino licence at the weekend - sponsored several other events.

"The cost of the king's entire birthday party came to more than R500 000, but I cannot tell you how much we spent on his birthday because it is confidential," said Reddy.

Thousands of people celebrated the king's 52nd birthday in Newcastle.

On Sunday, several ANC dignitaries - including Deputy President Jacob Zuma, Minister of Water Affairs Ronnie Kasrils, provincial ministers Dr Zweli Mkhize, S'bu Ndebele and mayors from across the province - were on hand when Chelmsford Dam was renamed Ntshingwayo Nature Reserve and Dam.

Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza led the Zulu army which defeated the British forces at Isandlwana in 1879. The British forces during the Anglo-Zulu War were commanded by Lord Chelmsford.

The king mentioned the irony of the dam having been named after the vanquished. But he emphasised the importance of the renaming was not in getting rid of something in favour of another in a revolutionary spirit.

"The renaming has practical implications. It is not just a symbol of triumph, politically or otherwise. Since the dam was named only in 1975, it symbolises a wholesome change that did not mean a discarding of any history."

Peace-lovers, the king said, would love the name-change and not politicise it or use it for political gain.

The monarch said he would also like to spend his next birthday among "his people".

On Saturday evening, the king was treated to a spectacular fireworks show.

Meanwhile, Kasrils saw the renaming as "an important part of the larger process" of transformation. Speaking at the renaming ceremony, he said 60 percent of the country's large dams - 104 out of 174 - carried Afrikaans names.

"Only 44 dams have African names," Kasrils said at the renaming ceremony

He said a dam should not be a monument to a particular ruling or landowning class.