A brightly adorned King Goodwill Zwelithini at the opening of the KZN legislature in Pietermaritzburg earlier this year. Picture: Enos Mhlongo.

King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Royal Household Trust said this week it was operating on a “shoestring” budget and needed more money to keep the king’s six wives and 20-odd children in the manner to which they are accustomed.

With more roles allocated to it, the trust, an entity established to support King Goodwill Zwelithini’s wives and royal amenities, is pleading for more funds to enable it to operate efficiently.

In the 2011-2012 financial year the trust was allocated R12 million from the R55m budget of the Royal Household Department, but overspent by R5.1m.

The trust’s chairman, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, said an extra R6m was needed to “discharge several other duties”.

While opposition parties expressed concern at the slow pace of processes to make the trust fully operational, they did not object to further funding.

“We need a clear and common understanding of the issue of the trust.

“There are a lot of things to determine, such as what roles the trust plays and what roles the department plays,” said the DA’s Sizwe Mchunu.

The IFP’s Inkosi Bonga Mdletshe agreed to the R6m extra funding, but said, “We just need to be taken on board on what the trust really does to justify funding because we envisage it to also generate its own income.”

The ACDP’s Jo-Anne Downs did not object to further funding, but expressed concern at how the board was dealing with individuals flouting internal processes with impunity.

The Royal Household Trust was established in 2009 in terms of a 2007 act of the legislature to manage the affairs of the Zulu Royal Household, market it and ensure its financial independence.

It provides for the royal household, including expenses for the six queens and the educational needs of the king’s children.

Presenting the trust’s annual report to the standing committee on public accounts in Ladysmith this week, Ngwenya said the trust came into being without a budget.

“Except for R5m said to be seed funding for the trust, every penny it receives is derived from the department [Royal Household] and at its discretion,” said Ngwenya.

He told the Sunday Tribune the trust was not operating at an optimal level, which was why there was the need for extra funding.

“We have critical vacancies to fill, including those of CEO, chief financial officer and public relations manager,” said Ngwenya.

He said even the seed funding was yet to be received.

He said that without a budget the shortcomings highlighted by the auditor-general were to be expected.

“Having noted the report of the AG, the board has taken various steps, in consultation with the king, the premier and other entities accountable to His Majesty, not only to address the issues raised, but to devise a long-term strategy to ensure the self-sufficiency of the monarch and royal household,” he said.

Ngwenya conceded the trust faced a host of challenges, but said it was taking everything in its stride.

He said a new organogram had been prepared setting out how the trust would be ultimately divorced from the Royal Household Department.

Ngwenya also hinted at the trust’s office moving either to Nongoma or Ulundi.

It’s now in the Royal Towers in Durban’s central business district.

He said the national treasury had been asked to grant exemption from the Public Finance Management Act while the changes were implemented.

He said the trust had reached an agreement with the treasury on an internal audit function, the approval of a supply chain management policy and allocating the responsibility of compliance to a designated official.

Ngwenya is doubling as chairman and CEO after the unceremonious departure of the previous CEO, Nkululeko Luthuli.

Luthuli, 30, the grandson of former ANC president Inkosi Chief Albert Luthuli, was suspended in March.

He confessed to fraud of R212 608 and misappropriating trust assets. The Sunday Tribune understands part of this money was used by Luthuli when he accompanied the king to London.

He also crashed a vehicle hired on the trust account and for which the board wouldn’t pay.

Under fire from members of the provincial legislature over Luthuli, Ngwenya defended the board’s handling of the matter.

“We asked an independent firm to investigate and this led to an agreement with the CEO to pay back the R212 608.

“The board decided no criminal proceedings should be instituted and Luthuli resigned,” said Ngwenya.

Luthuli, who has a bachelor of commerce degree in economics, earned just over R1m a year as CEO.

The trust’s appearance before the legislature was preceded by the appearance of the Royal Household Department, whose officials were merely rapped over the knuckles for fruitless expenditure.

The Sunday Tribune reported a month ago that officials from the department helped themselves to R600 000 of groceries.

Acting head of the department, Nhlanhla Ngidi, who is also the provincial director-general, blamed the lack of a full-time head of department and internal control processes.

MPLs were left fuming on a number of issues, including a R6m travel bill incurred by the department – 10 percent of the budget. -Sunday Tribune