The Democratic Alliance(DA) has called for answers following the revelation that R4million was transferred – allegedly without proper procedure – from KwaZulu-Natal’s CoGTA Department to the Office of the Premier, allegedly for infrastructure work at the palaces of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.
The discovery was made by the DA during an Office of the Premier/Royal Household budget hearing held earlier this week.
During the hearing, the DA raised concern around the issue. Meanwhile, questions posed to both Departments did not receive a suitable response, with officials unsure of its intended purpose. The DA further established that there was neither a memorandum of understanding nor a service level agreement between the two Departments as to the intended purpose of the R4 million.
The question that must be asked is who authorised this inter-departmental transfer? Certainly, CoGTA’s mandate does not include any form of funding for Royal Household infrastructure – this is a mandate which falls directly under the Office of the Premier.
Of further concern is Premier Sihle Zikalala’s indication during this year’s mid-term adjustment budget, that funding would be made available for the refurbishment of the seven Royal Palaces. A question by the DA to the the Premier’s Office has now confirmed that the necessary funding will come straight from KZN’s already decreased financial contingency reserve, placing the province at further economic risk.
With the as yet unknown economic impact of the Covid-19 on our province’s economy, now is not the time to be spending on ‘nice to haves’. Then there is the fact that most provincial Departments have also already received cuts to their maintenance budgets.
It appears that KZN’s Public Works Department is yet to undertake or complete a costing exercise for work to be carried out at the seven palaces. The DA expects Public Works MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni and her Department to complete this exercise and divulge the intended cost of the project as a matter of urgency.
The DA has long called for the implementation of a sustainable commercialisation strategy, including the agricultural operation, for KZN’s Royal Household. This is the only way to reduce the fiscal burden on the province.
This is a task which was supposed to have been taken on by the Royal Household Trust some years ago, which receives funding to the tune of R3million annually to achieve this objective. Regrettably, to date there has been no return on this expenditure and the Royal Household remains a burden on the province’s coffers.
This situation is unacceptable. The time has come for the Premier to act decisively and the DA now calls on him to remove and or dissolve the Royal Household Trust, return this responsibility back his own Office to save costs and to ensure that a sustainable solution is found for His Majesty the King, the Royal Household and the province of KZN.