King Goodwill Zwelithini has distanced himself from the court action taken against the Ingonyama Trust Board because of its lease programme, saying the ITB and its leadership must account for any irregularities in the collection of rents in his name.
Prince Thulani Zulu, who speaks on behalf of Zwelithini, said this week it was the board, which runs the Ingonyama Trust on behalf of the king, its sole trustee, that had to account for the lease revenue and not the monarch.
“The king is the king and the trust is the trust. People must draw a line between the two. Whatever goes right or wrong with the trust, it is the ITB and its management who are held to account,” he said.
“When people are taking the ITB to court, they are not taking the king to court. The king cannot go to court. The ITB can,” he said.
Two weeks ago, the residents of several areas that fall under ITB control lodged an application in the high court in Pietermaritzburg, challenging the validity of the lease programme, introduced by the board in 2009 and which took in R107-million last year.
Backed by the Association for Rural Advancement and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, the residents want the lease programme cancelled and the rents they have paid returned.
The leases replaced permission-to-occupy certificates and mean that residents are now forced to pay rentals of between R1 500 and R9 000 a year on land they have occupied for free for years.
Zulu made the comments days after Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize again assured the monarch that the three million hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal under his control is not under threat from government’s policy of expropriation of land without compensation.
Zulu said the board was accountable to the department of land reform and rural development, which funded it, and was “like any other parastatal”.
“The ITB works according to the Act. Yes, the land is the land of the king … but this does not take away the fact that the day-to-day functioning is the responsibility of the board and its executive, accounting to [the department of] rural development,” he said.
Zulu said it was the board, chaired by former judge Jerome Ngwenya, which had collected rentals and not the king.
“People must avoid saying that the king is taking money from the people. The king does not manage the funds,” Zulu said.
He said the king did not receive money from the board, whose mandate was to plough the funds it raised back into community projects.
Zulu said, although he could not comment on behalf of the board, efforts had to be made to separate it from Zwelithini.
“Where the board has done something right or wrong, people say it was done by the king. Now we have people talking about the king taking money from them. How clumsy is that? It’s not like that,” Zulu said.
He added that people should avoid “jumping to conclusions” because of the allegations made against the board, which still had to be proved in court.
The board was set up in 1994 by the then KwaZulu government.