Ingonyama Trust slates land case as 'attack' on King Goodwill Zwelithini
The Ingonyama Trust has condemned a court bid to compel it to stop collecting rent from occupiers of land that falls under it as a "direct attack" on Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and his subjects.
The trust was responding to an application filed by the Legal Resources Centre on behalf of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), the Rural Women's Movement and seven informal land rights holders who are challenging the conversion of informal land rights to long-term lease agreements.
If the application succeeds, the trust could be ordered to pay back millions of rands it has collected in rent for nearly a decade from people living on land it controls on behalf of Zwelithini.
In a strongly worded affidavit filed on Friday, Ingonyama Trust board chair Jerome Ngwenya says the application is "a direct attack against His Majesty the king of the Zulu nation and others".
"The relief sought by the applicants is designed to strip the Zulu nation of its dignity," he says - and is also, he adds, an attack on the institution of traditional leadership.
The Ingonyama Trust, whose sole trustee is the Zulu monarch, was established in 1994 to be the custodian of 2.8-million hectares of land previously administered by the former KwaZulu government.
In their application filed in the Pietermaritzburg high court in November last year, Casac, the women's movement and the land rights holders are challenging the conversion of permission-to-occupy or informal land rights to long-term lease agreements by the trust.
A number of people hold a permission-to-occupy or informal land right on land registered under the trust.
The envisaged lease agreements would be for 40 years and could cost the occupier between R1,500 and R1,700, depending on the extent of the land.
The applicants argue in court papers that the trust acted "unlawfully and in violation of the constitution" by cancelling the permission-to-occupy system and concluding lease agreements with the holders of permission-to-occupy or informal land rights.
Casac secretary Lawson Naidoo says in his affidavit that since 2007 the trust and its board have been "undermining the security of tenure of residents and occupiers of the trust-held land in KwaZulu-Natal".
In his affidavit, Ngwenya says Naidoo's assertion amounts to a direct confrontation with the Zulu king.
"Not once in history has the Zulu king been directly and publicly confronted and told in no uncertain terms that he is in breach of the law and has misconstrued his powers and position," he says.
"I submit that Naidoo's assertion amounts to a direct confrontation with the Zulu king. This conduct is disrespectful, provocative and a cause for concern," says Ngwenya.
"More so, his attacks are factually baseless and his knowledge of Zulu law and custom is zero."
He says Naidoo's assertion, that "just before the interim constitution came into force, the National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party struck a deal to establish the Ingonyama Trust and to transfer all land held by the KwaZulu government to the Ingonyama Trust", was an insult to the Zulu nation and its king.
"The assertion is false, baseless and amounts to opportunistic populism," says Ngwenya.
"Naidoo is not a Zulu and knows nothing about the Zulu way of life, ubukhosi [sovereignty] and Zulu law," said Ngwenya.
The court has yet to rule on the matter.