Zulu king blows R54 million, now wants more of your money

22 December 2014 - 11:56 By Bongani Mthethwa
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Free-spending King Goodwill Zwelithini - who spent R10000 on his birthday cake and R120000 on crockery and cutlery - wants more money from taxpayers.

The Sunday Times can reveal that the king is seeking a R10-million taxpayer bailout for his bankrupt Royal Household Trust.

Zwelithini, who has been indulged by the government since he switched political sides from Mangosuthu Buthelezi's IFP to the ANC, had a budget of R54-million this year.

But the money has run out, with two months of the financial year to go.

At the heart of the king's problem is a dispute between two entities that are meant to control the royal purse: the Royal Household Trust and the department of the royal household. The trust was intended to make the king less of a tax burden and to supplant the department, which is an arm of the KwaZulu-Natal government. The two bodies, each with their own staff, duplicate services to the king.

The latest revelations of the royal household's bankruptcy come as details of the king's excessive spending emerge.

The monarch spared no expense for his lavish two-day traditional wedding to a 28-year-old Swazi woman, Zola Mafu, in July. It cost nearly R4-million.

In February, the king wanted to buy imported military regalia costing R2.8-million for himself and his wives, princes and princesses to wear to the opening of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in June, which he was to address.

It has now emerged that the Royal Household Trust, chaired by Judge Jerome Ngwenya, who is also the king's adviser, has approached KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu to ask for more money.

Until now, the detailed expenditure of the royal household has been a closely guarded secret. Documents seen by the Sunday Times show a breakdown of the trust's expenditure this year, which includes:

  • R10.3-million allocated for the king's palaces;
  • R2.2-million in stipends for his six wives. Each wife receives a tax-free R31000 stipend each month, R6500 for groceries, a R4550 medical aid allowance and a R2400 cellphone allowance;
  • R2.5-million for travelling expenses, which translates to each wife receiving about R36000 a month; and
  • R915248 for education. The amount is for the tuition and boarding for five of the king's children, who attend top private schools, and a grandson at Kearsney College in Botha's Hill, KwaZulu-Natal. Zwelithini has 27 children.


For the king's wedding to Mafu, the trust stumped up R950000 for catering, R20000 for several rooms at the Ulundi Holiday Inn, R200000 for a 5000-seat marquee, R160000 for a sound system and R250000 for decor and flowers.

Zwelithini also ordered that two new rondavels be built for Mafu's Ondini Palace; they are believed to have cost at least R1-million. Mafu demanded new curtains for her palace, which cost an estimated R300000. A new palisade fence was also built around the palace for thousands of rands.

The day after the wedding, a cake fit for a king was bought for R10000, to mark Zwelithini's 66th birthday.

A source with inside knowledge of how the trust and the department operate has blamed the current financial crisis on "reckless" spending by Zwelithini.

"The problem is that it's not easy to say no to the king if he wants something to be done, either for himself, the queens or the princes and princesses, irrespective of whether that is budgeted for or not," said the insider.

For example, when Zwelithini and Queen Mantfombi Dlamini attended King Mswati's 47th birthday in Swaziland in April, they splurged R50000 on clothing for the occasion, which was not budgeted for.


In May, when the king was in Cape Town, he asked the trust to release R50000 so that he could buy crockery and cutlery in the Mother City. But when the invoice arrived, it showed that the monarch had spent R120000.

The trust also pays for the upkeep of the king's five farms, which are not viable.

Ngwenya - who has written to the Sunday Times to express his unhappiness with a report last week - blamed the department for the trust's woes.

He said a Sunday Times report to the effect that Zwelithini was broke was not true. He conceded that the trust was unable to pay its creditors, but said this was because the agreed amount of R22-million that the trust was meant to receive from the department of the royal household, from where it derives its income, had not been received.

It received only R11-million, the Sunday Times has learnt.

"It is the failure by the department to release money due to the trust which has led to the trust being unable to pay its creditors on time," he said.

It is understood that the trust held several meetings with Mchunu - the latest last week - to discuss the possible bailout of the trust.

Mchunu's spokesman, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, had not responded to written questions by the time of going to press. He said recently that Mchunu had commissioned a report on the financial state of the trust.


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