/ 2 September 2022

Job cuts start at Ingonyama Trust Board

Prince Misuzulu
Zulu monarch, Misuzulu ka Zwelithini (C). (Photo by Gallo Images/Sunday Times/ Sandile Ndlovu)

Job cuts at the troubled Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) began this week, with the first 11 staff members at the entity set to get their Section 189 retrenchment notices in the course of the next few days.

The staff complement at the ITB stands at 68, while an organogram presented to a board meeting held this week to deal with the retrenchments envisages that it will be cut to between 28 and 30 workers.

Staff members were informed on Wednesday that the retrenchments would go ahead after an extraordinary meeting of the board, which controls nearly three million hectares of  KwaZulu-Natal that falls under traditional authorities on behalf of the Ingonyama Trust.

King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the trust, set up to secure the participation of his father, King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu and the then Inkatha in the 1994 liberation elections.

Employees were told by chief executive Vela Mngwengwe that the first staff members to face the axe would be 11 contract workers, after which a voluntary severance package would be on offer.

Once this process was exhausted, forced retrenchments would take place.

The ITB receives about R23-million annually from the land reform department and is meant to receive 10% of all revenue it collects on behalf of the trust, but has a salary bill of about R40-million a year.

Its leadership has been at loggerheads with parliament and with the auditor general over its finances and its inability to play more of a developmental role than it has, which the ITB has blamed on underfunding.

The entity’s residential lease programme — which raised about R90-million a year — has been declared unlawful by the courts and is the subject of an appeal lodged by board chairperson Jerome Ngewenya.

Last week Ngwenya wrote to staff and board members saying that the trust could no longer continue to subsidise the board’s staff bill and that job cuts were therefore inevitable.

A staff member, who asked not to be identified, said they had been told the retrenchments would be incremental.

“After this group they want voluntary retrenchment to take place for two weeks. Thereafter they will implement forced retrenchment,” the staff member said.

“The problem here is that the retrenchment is based on an ideology of artificially separating the board from the trust. The reasoning placed before staff now is that the board does not have money to pay staff, but the trust has the money generated by the work of the staff.”

“The board gets the department’s grant every quarter to run the affairs of the trust. The trust gives the board 10 % of the revenue generated for the same administration.  So in essence the chairperson is refusing that the 10% revenue from the trust be used for administration,” the staff member said.

“This retrenchment has no basis at all.”

Ngwenya confirmed that the retrenchments were taking place and that the process would start with about 11 staff members who were on month-to-month contracts.

“There are about 11 members of staff who have been on month to month contracts ever since. The process will start with them. From the existing complement of 86 staff, we may make the reduction to between 28 and 30 staff,” Ngwenya said.

Ngwenya said that the ITB’s appeal against the ruling in the leases case would continue as the supreme court of appeal (SCA) had only dismissed its application to have two of the judges, the late Jerome Mnguni and deputy judge president Mjabuliseni Madondo, recused on the grounds of bias.

“The appeal remains alive. The SCA only ruled on the recusal application. We are considering taking that separately on appeal to the constitutional court,” Ngwenya said.