King’s ran­som to fin­ish Zwelithini’s pet project

Prob­lem-plagued reed dance venue could cost R1bn

Sunday Times - - News - By BON­GANI MTHETHWA

● An un­fin­ished reed dance venue ini­ti­ated by King Good­will Zwelithini that has been plagued by cost over­runs will end up with a price tag of R1-bil­lion if com­pleted.

The Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture says the only other op­tion is to de­mol­ish the cul­tural vil­lage at Enyokeni Palace in Non­goma, north­ern KwaZulu-Natal.

It faces the choice af­ter a foren­sic ac­count­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­mis­sioned by Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa found that the fi­nal cost would be eight times the orig­i­nal bud­get.

“Two op­tions dis­cussed are the com­ple­tion of [the cul­tural precinct] or de­mol­ish­ing the work done and restor­ing the site to its orig­i­nal state,” the depart­ment said in a re­port to the Na­tional Trea­sury, in which it asked for ad­vice on how to pro­ceed.

The Trea­sury re­sponded only by say­ing that if the depart­ment went ahead, it must have a writ­ten agree­ment with the Zulu royal house­hold or the In­gonyama Trust that they would main­tain the new build­ings.

Enyokeni Palace hosts the an­nual reed dance in Septem­ber and Umkhosi Wok­wesh­wama (first fruits cer­e­mony) in early De­cem­ber.

The king re­quested con­struc­tion of the cul­tural precinct in 2013, but Mthethwa halted work in 2016 and ap­pointed Go­bodo Foren­sic In­ves­tiga­tive Ac­count­ing to probe al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing and over­charg­ing.

At the time, Mthethwa’s depart­ment had spent R129-mil­lion, and the Go­bodo in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that R1-bil­lion would be re­quired to com­plete the project.

It found that prices had been in­flated and con­sul­tants had charged up to 200% more than stan­dard in­dus­try rates, and said:

● One con­trac­tor re­ceived R11-mil­lion for items that had noth­ing to do with the reed­dance precinct;

● A con­sul­tant in­flated a statu­tory fee by R3-mil­lion;

● A con­struc­tion mon­i­tor­ing fee was in­flated by R450 000; and

● An en­gi­neer­ing fee was over­stated by R5-mil­lion.

In to­tal, R20-mil­lion had been paid to con­sul­tants by the time Mthethwa halted the project, and the Arts and Cul­ture Depart­ment told the Sun­day Times this week the project re­mained on hold pend­ing a de­ci­sion on “the best im­ple­men­ta­tion ap­proach”.

Mthethwa’s spokes­woman, Asanda Ma­gaqa, said a fi­nan­cial sum­mary com­piled by the im­ple­ment­ing agent, the In­de­pen­dent De­vel­op­ment Trust, while con­struc­tion was still in progress showed, how­ever, that only an es­ti­mated R18.1-mil­lion would be needed to com­plete the project.

The depart­ment had bud­geted R55.6-mil­lion for the project in 2018-19 but would be un­able to es­ti­mate the to­tal re­quired un­til a “sound fi­nan­cial plan” was de­vised.

In­gonyama Trust board chair­man Jerome Ng­wenya said the trust had not signed an agree­ment with the Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture, but the depart­ment had ap­proached the board and the royal house­hold for in­put on the way for­ward.

Ng­wenya said the depart­ment was try­ing to fi­nalise cer­tain is­sues, to which the trust was not privy, be­fore en­ter­ing an agree­ment. “The project is cur­rently on hold but it is ev­i­dent that it will go ahead,” he said.

Af­ter vis­it­ing Enyokeni in Septem­ber, par­lia­ment’s arts and cul­ture port­fo­lio com­mit­tee said no one had ap­proved the orig­i­nal R129-mil­lion bud­get for the cul­tural vil­lage, con­struc­tion had gone ahead with­out proper plan­ning and ad­di­tions had been made with­out ap­proval.

The MPs’ visit co­in­cided with the Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture sta­tus re­port to the Trea­sury which pre­sented the “de­mol­ish or com­plete” choice. The Trea­sury de­clined to com­ment and re­ferred queries to Mthethwa’s depart­ment.

In ad­di­tion to the Go­bodo in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the depart­ment ap­pointed quan­tity sur­vey­ors Ru­bi­quant to de­ter­mine the value of com­pleted work. The com­pany found that the depart­ment had been over­charged for a range of pro­fes­sional ser­vices and ma­te­ri­als.

King Zwelithini re­quested an am­phithe­atre big enough for 2 000 VIP guests, and work al­ready done in­cludes a 2.5 mil­lion­l­itre reser­voir — which is leak­ing — and con­crete col­umns in the ar­rival court.

Re­main­ing work in­cludes in­fra­struc­ture to ac­com­mo­date young women at­tend­ing the reed dance, ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties, five cater­ing fa­cil­i­ties and equip­ment, a 17 000m² “royal square”, widened walk­ways and up­grad­ing of the ac­cess road. The ex­ist­ing pav­il­ion would also be re­fur­bished.

While the rest of us mere mor­tals sink deeper into debt, weighed down by a soar­ing petrol price, job in­se­cu­rity and the ris­ing cost of liv­ing, Zulu King Good­will Zwelithini lives in a La-La Land all of his own. His is truly a world apart from the South Africa most of us ex­pe­ri­ence in our daily lives: it is a world of bare-breasted maid­ens and cer­e­mo­nial reed dances, where no ex­pense is spared to keep His High­ness on the throne and in the style he has be­come ac­cus­tomed to. Should any­one dare threaten or even ques­tion the king’s royal ex­pen­di­tures, or his feu­dal grip on his sub­jects by way of the In­gonyama Trust, they are dealt with by vague or not-so-vague threats of upheaval, even se­ces­sion.

Most of us are tight­en­ing our belts, but not the king, who lives large, like the sheikh of a Mid­dle East­ern oil pro­ducer.

Con­sider the lat­est spend­ing de­ba­cle in­volv­ing His High­ness. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, com­ple­tion of the scan­dal-rid­den “cul­tural vil­lage” at his Enyokeni Palace in Non­goma, north­ern KwaZulu-Natal, could cost hard-pressed tax­pay­ers up to R1-bil­lion more.

Some R129-mil­lion of our money has al­ready been blown on the project — with lit­tle to show for it. In Fe­bru­ary, par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on arts and cul­ture, af­ter a site visit to Enyokeni in Septem­ber, is­sued a damn­ing re­port in which it found no one had ap­proved the R129-mil­lion for the vil­lage and that con­struc­tion had gone ahead with­out proper plan­ning. Phase one in­cluded a grandiose am­phithe­atre for 2 000 VIP guests, a

2.5 mil­lion-litre reser­voir which is leak­ing, and con­crete col­umns in the ar­rival court, all of which lie in ru­ins.

Now comes news that the project, halted by Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa in 2013 amid re­ports of gross mis­man­age­ment and wastage, could cost an as­ton­ish­ing R1­bil­lion to com­plete if it goes ahead, start­ing with the de­mo­li­tion of what has been erected.

If His High­ness hasn’t al­ready been told his spend­thrift ways are an af­front to mil­lions of bat­tling South Africans, this is the time to do it. Bend­ing the knee to him is one thing; dol­ing out cash as if we have noth­ing bet­ter to spend it on is an­other thing al­to­gether.

Pic­ture: Thuli Dlamini

Work has been sus­pended on the planned reed dance venue at Zulu King Good­will Zwelithini’s Enyokeni Palace in Non­goma.

King Good­will Zwelithini

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