Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

The Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) this week continued to push ahead with retrenching its employees in response to the withholding of about R22-million in its annual funding by the department of land reform and rural development.

Staff at the state entity had been given until Tuesday to accept voluntary severance packages offered to them earlier this month at a meeting with its chairperson, Jerome Ngwenya.

The board’s term expired at the end of June, and it is operating in terms of a three-month extension granted by Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza, because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Its leadership has been under fire in parliament over its failure to submit its annual report, financial reports and performance plan by the end of the financial year. It has also been pressed to account for lease revenues it collects from businesses and individuals living or trading on the land it controls, but has refused to do so, arguing that it should account only from funding it receives from the department.

Three different staff members, all of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said the majority of staff had not signed the offer by the time the deadline expired.

The entity, which administers nearly three million hectares of tribally controlled land on behalf of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, employs 53 staff at its Pietermaritzburg headquarters and several satellite offices.

Those affected by the retrenchments include the chief executive Lucas Mkhwanazi and chief financial officer Amin Mia, both of whom returned to work, together with other executives suspended by Ngwenya in January. 

“We were told that if we do not accept the voluntary packages, we will have to go through a full retrenchment process. The deadline for volunteers was Tuesday. There will be another meeting with unions at the end of the month,” one staff member said.

Another staff member said he did not sign as there was no concrete offer made by Ngwenya.

“There is no offer on the table for anyone at this stage. All that is required is that all those who want voluntary retrenchment must say so by Tuesday noon. If there are no takers, then the retrenchment process will commence,” he said.

ITB spokesperson Simphiwe Mxakaza referred Mail & Guardian to Ngwenya for comment. Ngwenya did not respond to calls and emails by the time of publication.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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