King of jacuzzis and cockroaches

Paul Kirk

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini spent R92 500 – of taxpayers’ money – on fumigating his homes for cockroaches in the past year.

The Mail & Guardian has invoices detailing the king’s expenditure, which includes R400 000 a month on a Lear jet, R16 000 repairing his jacuzzi and steam room and R12 000 repairing lawnmowers. Earlier this year, there was an outcry from opposition parties when tender documents showed that President Thabo Mbeki intended to install a sauna at his official residence at the cost of R40 000.

As details of Zwelithini’s spending emerged this week, horrified KwaZulu- Natal politicians called for closer monitoring of the king’s spending – and there was an admission from the royal palace that more control was necessary.

The king’s budget of roughly R18-million a year, including travel costs, contrasts sharply with the R20-million KwaZulu- Natal Premier Lionel Mtshali has pledged towards fighting Aids in the province.

The invoices show that Zwelithini has bought two Range Rovers of the same model as that used by the British royal family and has finished his bathrooms in Italian marble with solid gold taps.

He frequently uses the province’s Lear jet for long trips and KwaZulu-Natal’s R100 000-a-month helicopter to fly the 40km from his Nongoma home to Ulundi. The helicopter costs more than R4 000 to keep in the air for 15 minutes.

Apart from hefty travelling costs, the king has a few other big-ticket items on his budget, some of which seem to be needlessly expensive. The M&G priced new lawnmowers this week and found the most expensive was R2 700. Zwelithini spent nearly R12 000 repairing three lawnmowers.

Jacuzzis and saunas can be purchased and installed for less than R12 000 – considerably less than the R16 000 that the king has spent repairing existing ones. The one item the M&G was unable to price cost taxpayers’ R7 800 this year. Despite hunting high and low, there were no “Hi-fi video casseroles” for sale in any shops.

The details of the royal spending spree became public after Democratic Party MPL Mark Lowe asked for the king’s budget in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature. Lowe is now preparing a Bill for the legislature which will see the king’s budget more closely monitored than it is at present. He also wants to see the tender documents from which some of the expenses arose.

Said Lowe: “I am horrified by some of the prices I have seen on this budget. Although I have been assured that the expenses have arisen out of proper tender procedures I am concerned about the seemingly exorbitant amounts spent.

“I am also concerned that certain companies are being awarded contracts over and over again. Some of these companies were even in liquidation when they received contracts. I am very, very worried by what seems – at the very least – to be terribly poor financial management.”

One firm, Quarto Construction CC, consistently obtained royal contracts despite being liquidated in 1997. In the 1998/99 financial year Quarto built new guard quarters for R86 000. The year before they effected minor repairs and supplied carpets for more than R1,5-million at the king’s Ulundi palace alone. The king has not spent a night in his Ulundi palace for many years, preferring his other residences.

Said Lowe: “I am not proposing that the king be kept on a shoestring; I am proposing that he be given a budget and told to keep to it. At the moment the king’s expenses fall under so many different budgets that it is impossible to establish exactly what he costs us. For example, his travel budget comes out of the premier’s vote, and I have no idea who pays for his many bodyguards and luxury vehicles. Nor do I know who pays to educate his 35 children at our top private schools. Everything is hidden among other budgets.”

Lowe said the Bill he will be drafting would not necessarily reduce the king’s budget – just see it better controlled. Representative for Zwelithini, “TC” Memela, said some of Lowe’s suggestions were already being implemented.

Said Memela: “We have been working toward consolidating the king’s budget for some time. With the exception of travel, the king’s budget will all be one consolidated document. I can also assure anyone that the expenditure is properly controlled.”

South Africa’s unelected traditional leaders are paid nearly R600-million a year in salaries – at an average of R65 071 a month.

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