Mandela, an ANC MP, criticised the department of co-operative government and traditional affairs in Parliament this week for being inconsistent in the support it provides to traditional leaders. He also questioned the amount of patronage given to the Zulu kingdom.
These inconsistences created conflicts among traditional leaders, said Mandela, chief of Mvezo village outside Mthatha.
The department's officials – who appeared before a parliamentary portfolio committee to account for their annual report – appeared shocked as Mandela listed the alleged inconsistencies, including in the financial support provided for the burial of kings and queens.
He also referred to the funding of the Ingonyama Trust Board – of which King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee – as well as his seven state-maintained palaces and a huge police contingent to protect the Zulu king and his residences.
"If I may highlight some examples: in KwaZulu-Natal they spent a budget of more than R3million just exhuming the remains of the queen mother, yet in our own instance, in the Eastern Cape, a living queen passed on and the department was nowhere to be seen for assistance. And there were no policies in place as to what to do," said Mandela.
"What is the department doing to ensure that we speed up the process and ensure that all traditional leaders in every category are treated equally with the same benefits in place?"
He said the Thembu kingdom had recently buried its queen and no support had been forthcoming from the government. "We had endless discussions with the department and the MEC and at a particular period there seemed to be no policy."
Mandela also took issue with Zwelithini's state-sponsored security detail, saying more than 100 police personnel were assigned to his palaces. "And yet you don't get the same treatment rendered to other traditional leaders," he said.
Referring to the state-funded Ingonyama Trust Board that benefits the Zulu kingdom, he said there were no similar trusts set up for other kingdoms.
"The king has seven palaces … whereas in the other provinces we are rendering services into one palace. If there are benefits, they should be standardised and there should be one mechanism," he said.
Traditional affairs director general Muzamani Nwaila told the committee that the Seriti commission for the remuneration of public office bearers had recommended that each king have one palace, but Zwelithini had seven and "wants an extra one".
He said the Seriti commission had recommended one palace as a baseline norm, rather than reversing the existing practice whereby some monarchs occupied more than one.
Nwaila denied that some leaders were receiving preferential treatment, saying the department provided the same support for all traditional leaders. However, he said a ministerial task team was investigating the alleged inconsistencies.
Nwaila said Zwelithini had received support from the provincial government for the past 40 years. He joked that the budget of the royal households department, which is responsible for the king's upkeep, was bigger than that of his department.
The chairperson of the portfolio committee, Dumisile Nhlengethwa, instructed the department to "look and take note of the inconsistences on support".
Prince Mbonisi Zulu, a spokesperson for Zwelithini, declined to comment.