King Goodwill Zwelithini. FILE PHOTO: ANA

Durban – Traditional leaders and Zulu loyalists started gathering at Ulundi’s regional sports complex on Wednesday morning for an imbizo on suggested changes to government policy surrounding the controversial Ingonyama Trust.

Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, called the imbizo to urge his followers to “personally make contributions and influence legislation that will affect generations to come”.

The parliamentary-led discussion, now on a roadshow throughout the country on possible changes to the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation, has further exacerbated the discussion on traditionally held land.

At a meeting of traditional leaders last week, Inkatha Freedom leader and MP, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who is also a traditional prime minister to the king said: “Effectively, the first land expropriated without compensation would be the land of traditional communities.”

Wednesday’s event was supposed to start at 10 am but had not begun by midday.

The Trust owns about 29.67% of mostly deep rural land in KwaZulu-Natal, which covers an area of 94 361 km². The land was part of the KwaZulu Government bantustan created under Apartheid’s separate development doctrine.  While Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the land, it is divided according to clans and is overseen by traditional leaders.  

The Trust’s future has come under intense public scrutiny since the release in November last year of a report titled the “High-Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change”.

Led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, the panel recommended that “the Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed, or substantially amended, to protect existing customary land rights”.

The recommendations and criticism of the Trust caused outrage from the king and his followers, some calling it an attack on the Zulu nation.

Speaking to media in Ulundi on Wednesday, Buthelezi reiterated that should the panel’s recommendations be adopted, the Trust would fight the issue in court.

Ingonyama Trust Board chairman, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, also speaking from Ulundi, said that should the “matter” not be resolved, it would be taken to “any court that had jurisdiction”.

The panel report said the Trust generated “significant income” from leasing land, but that there was “little evidence that the revenue generated by leases is used for the benefit of communities or their material well-being”.

Rental income generated in the 2015/2016 period amounted to R96 130 563, according to the panel.

The Trust’s compliance with financial legislation was also found wanting, according to the panel.

Ngwenya said the monies collected from leases and other forms of income were “in the bank” stating they were being held to pay municipal rates and services.

The Trust is involved in several legal battles with local councils over non-payment of rates. Ngwenya has dismissed claims that the Trust has a poor financial record.

African News Agency (ANA)