The Lion King – Ingonyama Trust Roars Into Parliament

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Riyaz Patel

President Cyril Ramaphosa is dispatching a delegation of Cabinet ministers to KwaZulu-Natal amid radical recommendations on the Ingonyama Trust outlined in the presidential advisory panel on land reform report, and growing momentum toward the expropriation of land without compensation. 

The move is in response to a letter from Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini, the custodian of vast swathes of land in the province, Ramaphosa said, responding in Parliament to Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa who asked the president if he intends to implement the recommendations of the advisory panel report.

Ramaphosa said Cabinet is still considering the findings and recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture.

“We hope this will dovetail with the work being done by the National Assembly on the land question,” he said.

The Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, which was established in September 2018 to provide expert advice on the critical task of land reform, outlined several far-reaching recommendations aimed at correcting the skewed distribution of land in the country.

Ramaphosa said the acceleration of land reform is essential for the transformation of society, for tackling poverty and growing the economy.

“Through providing poor South Africans with land on which to farm, to live and to run businesses, we will be able to break the cycle of poverty in which many people are trapped.”

Hlengwa, in a supplementary question, said there was scant engagement with the Ingonyama Trust. 

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“Do you still stand by the commitments that you made in so far as the Ingonyama Trust is concerned vis a vis now the recommendations that say it must be reviewed or repealed,” Hlengwa asked the president.

Ramaphosa responded: “Cabinet discussed this matter just yesterday (Wednesday), and reflected on what we need to do in relation to our dealings with the Ingonyama Trust and this was prompted by a letter that I received from His Majesty the King, which I will be responding to.”

But, Ramaphosa underlined, “What I did say is that there will not be any arbitrary action that will be taken on the Ingonyama Trust, we will need to sit down and discuss with all the key role players so that everybody becomes part of the solution.”

EFF leader Julius Malema followed up and asked if the trust represented “that democratic way of ownership of the land.”

“There are no holy cows here, all of us, kings, queen, chiefs must be subjected to the Constitution of the Republic Of South Africa. All of us must serve that Constitution,” Malema thundered.

“Do you agree with the recommendations of former president Kgalema Motlanthe’s panel?” Malema asked Ramaphosa.

One of the recommendations made by the high-level panel chaired by Motlanthe, was that the Ingonyama Act, enacted just before the historic elections in 1994, be repealed.

Ramaphosa, in response to Malema, said “the issue of dealing with the Ingonyama Trust is a matter that we have got to approach in the way that I have outlined.”  

The Zulu monarch has previously warned that anyone who touched the Ingonyama Trust was declaring war against the Zulu nation.

“I want you to know that this land belongs to the current reigning King of AmaZulu [and] previous Kings and Queens and will not be taken from us. It will not die or be taken during my reign and your time. If we allow that, history will judge us harshly,” Zwelithini said, striking a defiant tone.

King Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the trust that administers more than 2.8 million hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal under the act.

Chair of parliament’s agriculture and land reform portfolio committee, Mandla Mandela, has backed calls to scrap the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB).

Mandela said the portfolio committee had a duty to look into the functioning of the ITB as it was funded by the department.

“Where else is that budget being spent around other kings and queens who are recognised by the government of this country? We said we need to look into the operation of the ITB,” Mandela said. 

Contralesa president, Kgosi Mathupa Mokoena, said the presidential advisory panel’s call would imply that King Zwelithini was abusing his powers, and that this was not warranted.

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