/ 29 April 2020

No annual R22-million for Ingonyama Trust Board

It is deeply disturbing that the Ingonyama Trust Act is now being portrayed as some sort of bribe made in secret by the apartheid regime to “pacify” Prince Buthelezi
The trust’s officials couldn’t say how the money was invested because the information was not forthcoming from the ITB’s investment wing. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Government withheld funding for the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) after the entity failed to submit its budget to the department of land reform, agriculture and rural development for the current financial year.

The submission of the ITB’s budget is understood to have been delayed by the de facto suspension of its top management — including chief executive Lucas Mkhwanazi and chief financial officer Amin Mia — on the orders of board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya in January.

The two were among five top executives placed on special leave in January by Ngwenya pending an investigation, the nature of which has not been made public. A sixth executive, land and tenure management services head Thembeka Ndlovu, was placed on special leave last year.

The ITB is funded by the department to the tune of around R22-million annually, with the shortfall in its operating expenses, which average more than R40-million a year, made up from revenue it collects on mining rights, levies and leases.

It administers around three million hectares of land under the control of traditional authorities in KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust. The ITB is the subject of a high court challenge by two NGOs and several residents of trust land who want its residential ease programme declared unlawful. The matter has been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Land reform spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo confirmed the delay in allocating funding of around R22-million to the ITB for its operating costs, saying the money would be released once the necessary documentation had been forwarded to the department.

“The department can confirm that the ITB has not submitted its financial request yet,” Ngcobo said. “It will be allocated once the necessary documentation is received from the ITB.”

Ngcobo said the department was “working closely” with the troubled entity to ensure that it adhered to financial management procedures.

The department was also assisting the board in ensuring it accounted for “each and every cent” it had allocated to traditional authorities and communities, in line with the request from Parliament.

Next Tuesday, the ITB, which has been under fire in Parliament over a series of negative audit outcomes from the auditor-general, is scheduled to provide the land reform portfolio committee a breakdown of all funds it has allocated to communities and traditional authorities.

It has previously failed to meet deadlines set by the committee to submit the breakdown of funds allocated to communities and traditional authorities.

Tuesday’s committee meeting is also scheduled to discuss the ITB’s budget.

Sources in the ITB told Mail & Guardian this week that the six executives — several of whom are preparing to challenge their de facto suspension in the labour court — and other staff members had not been paid their salaries.

It is not clear at this stage why they have not been paid.

ITB spokesperson Simphiwe Mxakaza referred the M&G to the chairperson, Ngwenya, who did not respond by the time of publication.