January 28, 2021

[Voices] A Marriage of Convenience: King Zwelithini partners with AfriForum

By Mpumelelo Phakathi 

King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, the current reigning King of the Zulu nation has announced that he we will be partnering with Afriforum in promoting agriculture and safeguarding food security of the country.

However, this is just a ploy to protect the land that is in his trust. This partnership announcement comes after he has made demands for the President to have it in writing, that the land under his trust will not be appropriated. The King is the custodian of the Ingonya Trust which owns about 28 000 square kilometres of the land in kwaZulu Natal. Earlier this year, Motlanthe had criticised the trust saying that it is an extortion machine, forcing people to pay money without being consulted regarding how the funds are used. AfriForum and the King have been vocal about their opposition to the expropriation of land without compensation.

The King said he’s strengthening his relationship with AfriForum to secure the agriculture and food security for all South Africans. The King made this announcement at the annual commemoration of Zulu King Shaka ka Senzangakhona.

He said:
“The Zulu nation I’m talking about will not exist if we don’t have food. That’s why I say farmers must come closer so that we discuss what we can do when we talk about agriculture and the availability of enough food in the land. That’s why I’m asking AfriForum of the Boers to come and help us, as they’ve introduced themselves to me that they are willing to work with me and my father’s people to uplift agriculture in our land in order to have food. Because when government started talking about the appropriation of land expropriation without compensation, Boers downed tools. There is no food in South Africa.”

However, this is not something new for monarchies to partner with organizations such as AfriForum who are known to protect the interests of the Afrikaaner, oblivious to the country’s history. The lobby group has been labelled as an anti-black organization and lately has been going to America and Australia, spreading false news that there is a genocide of white farmers in South Africa. To many this partnership comes as a surprised. I hold that this should not surprise us, as the King would do anything to stay in power and use the upcoming national elections to get what he wants and securing the land under his trust. For King Zwelithini, land is the only resource that can keep him relevant and in power. Therefore, partnering with AfriForum are just tactics to get his will before the 2019 elections. The King is also aware that this partnership can shake the African National Congress since the kwaZulu Natal province has a large number of voters.

The institution of traditional authorities is one that is ancient and still existing in South Africa. Historically, the institutions represents traditions, customs, values and culture of a given nation or community. The institution itself is one that is administrative and political, and also the centre of governance for African communities. Conversely, this changed when the colonial and apartheid introduced their rule. Traditional leaders played a key role in the everyday administration of their areas and the lives of traditional communities. Pre-colonization, Kings and Queens were seen as political, spiritual, and cultural leaders. This move by Zulu King is not new, monarchies in the past have collaborated with Boers.

What makes it possible for him to make such threats is because of the legitimacy that traditional leaders have gained at the local sphere of government. It seems that the national party has lost influence in rural areas due to corruptions and traditional leaders emerging as drivers of community development and governance. During the 19th century some traditional authorities were used as means of indirect rule. This was a British concept where traditional authorities were used as agents of the colonial government. This led to the demise of the authority of traditional leaders as they were depended on the colonial government for resources and power. The policy of indirect rule was presented as being instituted to preserve the pre-colonial structures of the traditional leadership. However, it was put in place as a means of controlling traditional leaders and communities.

Through indirect rule, traditional leaders were obliged to work for the colonial and others obliged willingly. Recently, traditional leaders have been gaining more popularity with the rural voter because of the leadership vacuum that has been left by the corrupt ANC government, which does not deliver services to these communities. I put it forward that it is as the result of the ANC’s inefficiency that has left rural communities with no choice but to put their trust in Kings and Queens.

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