Audit chief raises alarm as Zulu king blows millions

29 November 2015 - 02:02 By NATHI OLIFANT and BONGANI MTHETHWA

The office of the auditor- general is concerned about Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini's finances .

The state of the Royal Household Trust, meant to make King Zwelithini and his family of six wives and their 40 children self-sustainable, is so dire the auditor-general has cast doubt on the trust's ability to "operate as a going concern".

This comes after the trust's annual report for the year ended in March, presented before the KwaZulu-Natal legislature last month, revealed that liabilities exceeded assets by R3.2-million, and that it had a R539000 deficit.

All this "may cast significant doubt on the public entity's ability to operate as a going concern", said the auditor-general in his report.

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The report also found the trust - set up in 2009 - had awarded contracts to bidders who had not declared past supply-chain practices such as fraud, abuse of supply-chain management systems and nonperformance, and to contractors not registered with the Construction Industry Development Board.

A R1.5-million bill for the king's lavish wedding to Swazi-born Queen Zola Mafu in July last year remains unpaid . He gets more than R50-million in annual support from the government on top of his R1-million salary.

King Zwelithini's wedding coincided with his 60th birthday celebrations, which cost R4.2-million, and was the top item among the royal family's expenses last year. That bill was only settled last month.

Former Royal Household Trust chairman Judge Jerome Ngwenya this week said the king was embarrassed by the financial troubles and had expressed this to premier Senzo Mchunu.

"The king was very saddened by this, very saddened. This was too bad for him. He reported this to the government. Officials and the director-general have never explained to us why they always under-transferred funds to the trust which led to this. That's why His Majesty was embarrassed by that episode," said Ngwenya.

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It was difficult to break down the education cost for the king's children "because the king's children are king's children and there should not be an age limit when they stop to be taken care of".

But Ngwenya, who is also the king's legal adviser, lashed out at the auditor-general this week, saying he lacked "consistency as he still cannot differentiate between the royal household department and the trust".

In his foreword in the trust's annual report, Ngwenya lamented the absence of a common understanding between the king and the royal family on the one hand, and Mchunu and the provincial executive on the other, on what the role of the trust is.

"As things stand there is a big gulf," said Ngwenya.

Sipho Nkosi, chairman of the provincial standing committee on public accounts, said it would not comment on the report because the auditor-general had already made his finding, but it was satisfied the trust was starting to operate optimally.

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