Royal relation takes Ingonyama reins

A sister-in-law of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been appointed as acting chief executive of the embattled Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), following the resignation of Dr Fikisiwe Madlopha last month.

The monarch is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, set up on the eve of the 1994 elections to secure his participation and that of the Inkatha Freedom Party. The trust controls about three million hectares of tribal land, which previously made up the KwaZulu Bantustan.

Thembeka Ndlovu, the younger sister of the monarch’s fourth wife, Thandekile Ndlovu, known as MaNdlovu, has been appointed to act in the R2‑million-a-year post until a replacement is found for Madlopha, who left to pursue private business interests.

Ndlovu, a former teacher who worked at the rural development and land reform department, was appointed as acting chief executive on April 1. She had been a deputy director with the rural development department at Richards Bay, a high-level post in the civil service. She had acted as director for state land in the department’s Pietermaritzburg office for some time, but was not made permanent.

The ITB is funded by the national land reform department and administers the land, collecting rentals and royalties on behalf of rural communities. It has come under fire from Parliament for its failure to pay mining revenue into the National Revenue Fund and has been asked to account for what portion of the R90‑million in lease fees it has taken in from commercial tenants every year.

READ MORE: Payback time for Ingonyama

The ITB faces closure following the recommendations of Parliament’s high-level panel on accelerating transformation, which wants the trust to be phased out and land tenure given directly to rural residents. Earlier this year, the land reform committee told the ITB to halt its programme of having residents convert their “permission to occupy” certificates into leases. The committee believed the conversion would result in the “systematic eviction” of rural people, which was unconstitutional.

Last month, Ndlovu was introduced to the rural development and land reform portfolio committee by ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya, who was asked by the committee to explain the acting appointment. Committee minutes show Ndlovu presented the ITB’s annual performance plan, which has repeatedly been rejected by the committee and the auditor general. The committee criticised the plan for not being up to standard, lacking a financial breakdown and having no income sheet. It also lacked a monitoring system.

Elleck Nchabeleng, an ANC MP on the land reform committee, said the members had not been informed of Ndlovu’s relationship with the monarch through marriage.

“This is news to me,” Nchabeleng said. “We were not informed of this. We were briefed that she had worked in the department of land reform and was a senior person. I’m not sure what her qualifications are, but we take it that she is qualified and that is why she has been appointed in the acting capacity. The committee does not know about the relationship, as it was not revealed to us. We are not aware of the selection criteria or the process.

“If she qualifies, she qualifies, regardless of her relationship to the king’s wife. People should not be discriminated against because of who they are related to. The issue is qualifications, the capacity to do the job and the ability to meet the terms of the Public Finance Management Act as we are dealing with public funds.”

Attempts to secure comment from Ndlovu and Ngwenya were unsuccessful at the time of going to print.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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