As it fights for survival, the Ingonyama Trust is reportedly taking Parliament to court over recommendations by a high-powered team of experts that it should be dissolved.
The team, the High Level Panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, recommended that Parliament should either amend or repeal the Ingonyama Act from which the trust derives its powers.
A reliable source within the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) told The Witness on Tuesday that the board, which administers tribal land on behalf of King Goodwill Zwelithini, had resolved to initiate legal processes as part of a two-pronged strategy of survival.
“The trust has already instructed its legal team to obtain certain documents from Parliament that will form part of the trust’s court application.
“Our position is that apart from the flawed High Panel Report, Parliament, through its committees, has been hostile to the trust during presentations to the committees,” said a source, who cannot be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Zwelithini, the trust’s sole trustee, has previously castigated the panel for what he said was its failure to obtain input from traditional leaders before compiling its report. A committee looking into the panel’s recommendations has since been constituted.
“Apart from the legal processes, there will also be political campaigns, mainly led by the king to mobilise the Zulu people against the ANC’s attempts to undermine the king and his people by interfering with the trust,” the source said.
Contacted for comment, ITB chairperson Judge Jerome Ngwenya could not confirm or deny that lawyers have asked Parliament to hand over documents. “I have no comment,” he said.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo could not be reached for comment.
However, Pumzile Mnguni, the Whip of the portfolio committee on rural development and land reform — which has an oversight role over the trust — confirmed that the trust’s lawyers had asked for some documents from the committee. “I don’t have specific details at the moment but if I can recall, they have requested minutes of committee meetings,” he said.
Zwelithini has threatened to secede from South Africa should government proceed with plans to transfer the administration of tribal land currently under the control of the trust to the state.
The king’s threats last week saw President Cyril Ramaphosa cancel scheduled engagements in KwaZulu-Natal to hold an emergency meeting with Zwelithini.
At the meeting Ramaphosa assured Zwelithini that the ANC-led government had no intention to expropriate or “grab” the land currently under the traditional leaders.
However, despite Ramaphosa’s assurance, it has since emerged that Parliament is forging ahead with processing the High Level Panel report.
“The least that could be done at this stage is to allow those who feel they should have been consulted during the panel’s public hearings an opportunity to make submissions. What we will not accept is the bullying of members of the panel and Parliament,” an ANC MP close to the process, said.
In March, Zwelithini asked all members of the Zulu ethnic group to donate R5 each towards a fund to fight attempts to dissolve the trust. While no figures have been released of how much has been raised, last month the king asked his subjects to increase their minimum donations to R15.