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‘Ingonyama Trust run like a spaza shop’

Staff at the Ingonyama Trust have accused the board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya of misusing his powers and running the organisation as a spaza shop. File picture: Gcina Ndwalane

Staff at the Ingonyama Trust have accused the board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya of misusing his powers and running the organisation as a spaza shop. File picture: Gcina Ndwalane

Published Jan 31, 2021

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Johannesburg - Staff at the Ingonyama Trust have accused the board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya of misusing his powers and running the organisation “as a spaza shop”.

The workers wrote a letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, seeking her intervention.

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In the letter, the employees detailed ill-treatment cases at the hands of Ngwenya, and the acting head of land tenure management services.

"Each of us sits at the mercy of a tyrant who could wake up at any day and decide to either suspend or place any one of us under special leave for reasons only known to him. Out of the blue, after all the harassment, he tries to determine why you should be fired," the workers wrote.

"This diabolic habit has been the reason for staff members being on 'special leave' and being laid undue charges without concluding."

Didiza's spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said he had not seen the letter and "even if it came, it would have been referred back to the ITB (Ingonyama trust Board) to attend (to) it."

The letter from the workers also alleged that Ngwenya makes all the decisions and instructs everybody to make sure they happen without following due process.

"He negotiates deals alone and comes to instruct officials and members of the Board of what needs to be done," said a worker speaking on condition of anonymity.

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In one instance, Ngwenya is alleged to have concluded an R18 million land deal in Mhlali, North of Ballito without consulting anyone. The workers said this was problematic as the trust had enough land and does not need to buy it.

"Ingonyama Trust is not in the business of buying land or properties. But he went and negotiated to buy a farm worth R18m without any valuation conducted to determine the market values the Public Finance Management Act requires," said another worker.

The workers said Ngwenya allegedly bought the land for "the construction of a hotel" to accommodate people who come to the Ilembe ceremony in September, but that had not happened.

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"Nothing has been done on the land since it was bought," said the worker.

Attempts to get a comment from Ngwenya were unsuccessful.

The workers further claimed that Ngwenya pushed out the head of land tenure management services, Thembeka Ndlovu.

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He allegedly replaced her with Sue Ellis, in an acting capacity.

The workers said Ellis was a clerk prior and did not possess the necessary qualifications.

The position requires a Postgraduate qualification in land and tenure/ property law/real estate agent, 15-years working experience and 7-years being in a senior management position. Ellis is said to only have a Grade 12 certificate.

The appointment of Ellis was flagged by auditors who indicated that in terms of the Human Resource Policy, "In the making of any appointment or the filling of any post in the Trust: - (a) the trust shall advertise the post in at least one official language in the local or national newspapers or request at least, three employment agencies to provide at least two cvs' of prospective candidates".

The auditors said through evaluation of the audit evidence provided; they could not confirm that the process followed to appoint the acting head for land and tenure management was in line with the legislation and internal policies and whether the employee had the relevant qualifications for the position.

"The evidence submitted was insufficient for us to confirm compliance. Furthermore, it was noted that the employee does not meet the minimum requirements to act in the position," the audit report said.

The auditor further stated that the accounting authority and the head of corporate services did not ensure that proper record-keeping was in place to ensure that there was relevant and accurate information to support the appointment process.

"The accounting authority and the head of corporate services did not implement the HR policy to ensure that only employees meeting the minimum requirements for acting in senior management positions are considered. The accounting authority did not ensure compliance with laws and regulations relating to the acting appointment processes," the audit found.

In response to the audit query, management noted the finding, however, questioned why only Ellis's qualifications had been queried.

Ngwenya and two other board members were also found to have gone to the UK with a spending budget of R500 000.

They, however, failed to provide receipts of their expenditure.

"During the audit of expenditure, it was noted that, there were no invoices or other supporting documents for an amount of R500 000 that was paid to three board members for a trip to United Kingdom.

“The Board members did not require that there should be supporting documents post to the trip, as to how this expenditure was used by three board members," the auditor said.

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