Judge Jerome Ngwenya is the chairman of the Ingonyama Trust. Photo: Gcina Ndwalane
Judge Jerome Ngwenya is the chairman of the Ingonyama Trust. Photo: Gcina Ndwalane

Judge Ngwenya says there is no probe into Ingonyama Trust Board

By Samkelo Mtshali Time of article published Oct 22, 2020

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INGONYAMA Trust Board (ITB) chairperson Judge Jerome Ngwenya has denied the existence of a forensic audit and investigation appointed by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza to probe the board’s finances.

This is despite yesterday Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, chairperson of parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, welcoming the probe into the ITB into alleged breaches of governance and violations of the Public Financial Management Act.

The ITB receives annual funding amounting to R29 million from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

The investigation stems from allegations of bribery leveled against the Ingonyama Trust by Amakhosi in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and allegations that Ngwenya had used his position as chairperson of the board to enrich himself.

The ITB controls some 3 million hectares of land in KZN, which makes up 30% of KZN’s overall land, and its sole trustee is the king of the Zulu Kingdom, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who also appointed Ngwnenya as his nominee on the board.

When quizzed on the investigation, Ngwenya said: “There is no forensic audit happening. That is just pure lies, when did it start and where did it start? The Minister did say that (there would be an investigation) but, she hasn’t done anything until now. That’s all we know otherwise we would be lying for the sake of filling up newspaper space.”

Ngwenya also denied that he had threatened legal action against Didiza for instituting an investigation into the board, saying media reports that he had written to the minister threatening her with a lawsuit if she went ahead with the audit were lies. .

“Whoever says that I have said that must give proof on how I said that, whether I wrote it or said it verbally and who I was having that conversation with because nobody interviewed me (to that effect). I have never spoken to anybody, I don’t care about any legal action,” said Ngwenya.

The trust has come in for heavy scrutiny by the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental led by former President Kgalema Mothlante and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Advisory Panel with both recommending that the Ingonyama Trust Act should be repealed or substantially amended to protect existing customary land rights.

On Thursday Inkosi Mandela said that all the recipients of public funds had a moral obligation to ensure compliance with the provisions for good governance, accountability and transparency. "Such funding to the tune of R29m per annum is intended to benefit the traditional leaders and their communities on tribal lands in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Regarding the probe against the current chairperson of the ITB, the committee trusts that justice will take its course and that beneficiary communities will get what is justly due to them,” said Inkosi Mandela.

Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, did not answer his phone and had not answered emailed and texted questions related to the investigation.

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