10 years on, why isn't the Zulu king financially self-sufficient?
Opposition parties in KwaZulu-Natal have questioned the viability of the royal household trust, which was set up 10 years ago to make Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini and the royal family less of a burden to taxpayers.
The parties were reacting to KZN premier Sihle Zikalala’s allocation of R66m to the king’s annual budget during his budget vote in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday. The king’s budget for 2019/20 increased slightly from R65m in 2018.
Zikalala told SAfm after his budget presentation that his government had decided to keep the king’s budget at R66m - which was was agreed to by all parties in the legislature - because of the role played by the king.
He said the monarch played a crucial role in programmes which were co-ordinated through him and his office, including cultural programmes and programmes aimed at promoting social cohesion among different racial groups in the province.
"All those programmes are co-ordinated through His Majesty and where we include traditional leaders, we have to do that through him and his office. Therefore, it is important that there is an allocation that is reserved for that function," Zikalala told SAfm.
He said his office always accounted for how money allocated for the royal household was spent.
The trust was established in 2009 to provide financial support for the royal household, including the educational needs of the king’s children, the running costs of his seven palaces and provision for his six queens.
However, DA leader in the provincial legislature Zwakele Mncwango questioned when the trust would start generating sufficient revenue to sustain the king and the royal family.
"We have been having this debate for a while. During the committee we were informed that the trust or the board is dysfunctional and there is a lack of capacity. We need to always ensure that we spend money where we can really also make money. Especially, when we spend money on the trust they must start generating some kind of revenue.
"According to the report we spend money managing farms, taking care of the king’s cattle. This should really be an activity where the trust makes money and is able to sustain the king. And I think at some stage the king should able to be independent," he said.
EFF member of provincial legislature Vusi Khoza questioned why a breakdown of how the royal household would spend money was not tabled during Zikalala’s budget vote.
"We have not been given a breakdown of how this money is going to be utilised. We had hoped that with the establishment of the royal household trust, the budget that we have to allocate to the king would minimise. However, we don’t see much difference and we call upon your office, Premier, to ensure that the royal household trust is functional," he said.
The IFP’s Blessed Gwala blamed the provincial government for "a litany of broken promises" which, he said, included its failure to maintain the king’s palaces.
"The government of the day has failed to maintain the king’s palaces where millions of rands were allocated. The example of that is the refurbishment of the king’s palace in Ingwavuma. In 2018 it was reported that the provincial government has spent R15m in renovating the palaces in 2012/13, and the following financial year another R20m was allocated for overall maintenance of the royal household infrastructure but it is not clear whether this money was spent," said Gwala.
He said despite a team of officials being sent to assess the work done at the palaces last year, there was still no feedback.
"To date we don’t know what has happened on this issue. No one has been held accountable. The IFP demands a thorough investigation into this matter," he said.