KZN’s headmen headache just got a lot worse
Auditor-general wants to know what the more than 3,000 izinduna do, and why they are getting paid
The KwaZulu-Natal government doled out in excess of R300m in the 2016/17 financial year to pay 3,150 izinduna – and now the auditor-general wants to know exactly what these headmen do and why they are getting their cash.
The thorny issue of the payments to izinduna continues to be an albatross around the neck of the KwaZulu-Natal department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) – so much so that it resulted in the department not receiving a clean audit from Auditor-General Kimi Makwethu in 2016/17.
Now Makwethu wants an official policy outlining the functions and duties of izinduna.
This was revealed by Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube at a meeting with about 300 amakhosi in the Durban City Hall on Wednesday, where they discussed various issues affecting traditional leaders in the province.
Dube-Ncube told the chiefs that the remuneration of izinduna was in place for the first time in the history of traditional leadership, which made it a tricky matter for government to manage.
“We, therefore, have to expect challenges on this issue and we accept criticism where we have made mistakes. But we are trying our best to deal with it,” said Dube-Ncube.
“Our view, which still stands, is that izinduna belong to amakhosi, and they don’t belong to the government. Therefore izinduna must not overtake amakhosi. This issue still has challenges as we have seen that the auditor-general gave the department a bad audit because of not understanding the issue of izinduna. The auditor-general wants an official policy outlining the functions and duties of izinduna,” said Dube-Ncube.
The issue of the payment of izinduna took centre stage during the 2018/19 budget vote for Cogta in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg in May. The department came under severe criticism from opposition parties, who said the payment to headmen was crippling its finances at the expense of service delivery.
But the situation dates to 2015, when former president Jacob Zuma, acting on recommendations of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, decided to standardise the salaries of the country’s more than 5,000 headmen to pay a flat annual salary of R84,125.
There were concerns that this was meant to appease headmen and headwomen – who wield considerable influence in rural areas – in a bid by the ANC to woo them into its fold. The IFP has always relied on the support of izinduna in deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal.
At the time, KZN Cogta denied these allegations.
At Wednesday’s meeting Dube-Ncube appealed to amakhosi to work together with her department on the headmen issue, which has resulted in some divisions between izinduna and amakhosi in some areas.
One chief told the gathering that izinduna had become arrogant since they started receiving payments, while other amakhosi complained about not having powers to remove the headmen when their relationship irretrievably broke down.
A presentation on the financial support to the institution of traditional leadership in the province has painted a grim picture of the amount of money being spent.
The presentation revealed that, during the 2017/18 financial year, Cogta spent R1.5m on traditional institutional management compared with R1.6m during the 2018/19 financial year.
It also showed that department spent R2m on a ubukhosi (traditional leadership) summit, R3m on an audit of land ownership in traditional communities, and R2m on traditional ceremonies.
Of the department’s R572m for traditional institutional management in the 2018/19 financial year, R410m (71.6%) was allocated for traditional councils’ support at district level and R42m (7.5%) was spent on district office support costs, bringing the total to R452m (79.1%).
The R410m catered for amakhosi’s annual allowance, travel allowance, catering, izinduna, traditional councils secretaries as well as their sitting allowance.
The department also spent R374,000 on the funeral of amakhosi out of a R900,000 budget for the 2017/18 financial year, R251,000 on cultural events, R22m on the local house of traditional leaders, and R32m on the provincial house of traditonal leaders.
A chairperson of the provincial house of traditional leaders is entitled to a three-bedroom brick house and a rondavel as a beneficiary of the programme, and basic office infrastructure such as desks, desktop computers, laptops, an Internet device, a copier, a printer, a fax and a cellphone. They are also entitled to support staff such as a director, two deputy directors, a personal assistant and an admin clerk.
For official travel they are entitled to a 4.2 Toyota Fortuner and a petrol card while they are reimbursed their expenses for flights, accommodation and car hire.
During the training in capacity building of amakhosi, held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal from 2013 until 2015, the department spent more than R9m on training and R1,1m on buying laptops for training.