King’s ransom to finish Zwelithini’s pet project
Problem-plagued reed dance venue could cost R1bn
● 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.
Work has been suspended on the planned reed dance venue at Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Enyokeni Palace in Nongoma.
King Goodwill Zwelithini