Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi speaks to thousands of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s subjects gathered in Ulundi on Wednesday for an Umbizo convened by the king. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN – Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, on Wednesday, said that while he wanted the rights of traditional leaders to be respected, he was not beating the drums of war.

“As a nation we take pride in the fact that our monarch reigns in a time of peace; we do not want war, we do not want bloodshed. What we want is to have our legitimate right to our land respected,” Buthelezi told scores of Zulu loyalists and traditional leaders in Ulundi.

Buthelezi, who is also a traditional prime minister to Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, was speaking at a land imbizo called by the Zulu monarch. The gathering was tackling suggested changes to government policy surrounding the controversial Ingonyama Trust.

The Trust owns about 29.67% of mostly deep rural land in KwaZulu-Natal. The king is the sole trustee of the land, which 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Led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, the report recommended that “the Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed, or substantially amended, to protect existing customary land rights”.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. The outrage has since been exacerbated by intense national debate about land expropriation without compensation.

Speaking in isiZulu, Buthelezi said that the Zulu nation wanted the government, led by the African National Congress, to acknowledge Zwelithini’s authority over land in the province and to recognise that traditional leaders had been delegated authority to administer that land.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi speaking about the powers of Traditional Leaders at Wednesday's land imbizo in Ulundi. MEDIA: ANA Reporter

“An attempt by the state to expropriate our land is not only unconstitutional, but is against natural justice,” he said.

The Ingonyama Trust Act had remained legitimately in place for 24 years, he said, and had been respected by the Constitutional Court.

“But now, there are calls to scrap the Act or to amend it in a way that would transfer the land of the Zulu nation to government, to be administered not by the Amakhosi, but by the minister of rural development and land reform," said Buthelezi.

“Our king would be stripped of his authority and prevented from exercising his royal duties as custodian of the land. He would effectively be reduced to a ceremonial figure within a kingdom that is no longer a kingdom.” 

Buthelezi said the high level panel had made no attempt to find out why the Ingonyama Trust Act was in place and why it was needed.

Taking to the stage earlier in the day were representatives from the African Basic Movement (ABM), a political party calling for South Africa to be a kingdom state and for foreigners to be ejected. ABM said it wanted Zwelithini to be the overall leader of the country.

In his short address, chairman of Radical Economic Transformation Champions, Nkosentsha Shezi, said KwaZulu-Natal should be called KwaZulu and that all of the land in the province should be transferred to the Ingonyama Trust.

Shezi is also the secretary general of the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa, which, along with other businesses in the province, has thrown its weight firmly behind former president Jacob Zuma as he faces corruption charges.

Numerous traditional leaders also took to the podium to affirm their support for the king and his ownership of the Trust. 

African News Agency (ANA)