King Goodwill Zwelithini is so broke that he cannot even pay for groceries for his household that includes his six wives and their 27 children.
The king, who already receives R54.2-million annual support from the South African government, will now have to be bankrolled by the KwaZulu-Natal government.
The situation is so dire because the trust – meant to make the royal household self-sufficient – is broke.
The royal household department was allocated R54.2-million for the 2014-15 financial year, which was divided thus:
R42.2-million for administrative services to the king and his family;
R9-million for “maintenance of the royal household infrastructure [and] refurbishment of the six palaces” and;
R2.9-million to run the king’s five farms.
But despite this allocation, the trust has failed to settle the outstanding R1.6-million owed to Sizwe Gwala, the owner of Xolisisizwe Trading and Projects, which organised the 66-year-old king’s wedding to28-year-old Swazi national Zola Mafu in July.
Judge Jerome Ngwenya, the chairman of the Royal Household Trust,admitted there is a financial crisis.
Ngwenya said this week that the reason for the trust’s difficulties was that it was never fully costed and budgeted for.
The trust, which was set up by the provincial government five years ago, was meant to replace the royal household department, but both are now operating.
This means that their responsibilities and functions overlap.
“Whatever money that the trust has received to date was transferred from the department as if the trust is [an] entity of the department.
“The department, despite all agreements reached with the trust and reduced to writing, has failed to transfer monies as per the agreement [and] instead transferred lesser amounts,” said Ngwenya.
The standoff between the department and the trust means that the trust is no longer able to give a stipend to the king’s household.
Ngwenya said that despitethe trust receiving a reduced amount from the department, “it also bears mentioning that, to date, the department claims to have irregularly spent in excess of R9-million”.
Ngwenya said a large chunk of the money received by the trust was spent on personnel and the upkeep of the king, his six wives and his children, the maintenance of the king’s farms and domestic and agricultural activities.
“The irony in this is that the department retains a bigger share of the budget vote [more than 60%] while the trust is allocated the difference by the department,” he said.
“Despite this, even the meagre difference is subsequently reduced by the department without any reasons provided to the trust.”
Ngwenya’s acknowledgement of the trust’s financial problems follows an admission by its actingchief financial officer, Bonginkosi Qunta, to the KwaZulu-Natal finance portfolio committee last week that the trust was broke.
“Our liabilities are higher than our assets . We are insolvent and that is a very serious situation for a public entity,” Qunta said.
He wrote to the royal household department and the king and said that in addition to being unable to buy food for the family, the trust could not pay the school fees for the king’s children next year.
The travelling allowance for the king and his entourage will also be stopped.
Neither Ngwenya nor Qunta could provide specific details on how the trust had spent its allocation or how much funding it had received to date.
The trust was established by former KwaZulu-Natal premier S’bu Ndebele in 2009 to provide financial support for the royal household.
Its core responsibility was to make the royal family sustainable and less dependent on the state.
However, a feasibility study in 2012 found that the king’s five farms were not financially viable.
Ndabezinhle Sibiya, the spokesman for KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu, said the provincial leader had commissioned a report into the financial state of the trust.
He would not comment further.