King Ill-Will Zwelithini

Andrew Donaldson says it may be no bad thing if KZN ends up seceding


IT was the headline that got our attention (as headlines invariably must): “Zwelithini threatens Zulus will leave SA and take KZN with them.”

The magnitude of such an undertaking gave us brief pause for thought. 

Where would the Zulus put the province? In Lesotho perhaps? Zimbabwe? Would they have it float about at sea until it attached itself to Madagascar, say, or maybe even Malaysia?

However, closer scrutiny revealed that King Goodwill Zwelithini was just being his usual old bellicose self, telling traditional leaders and other constituencies at a land imbizo in Ulundi on Wednesday that “perhaps the time has come for KZN borders to be closed” and he managed the place.

Ill-Will, as we refer to the king, was warning government that if they in any way interfered with the Ingonyama Trust Act then he’d fight for an independent homeland.

The trust, you will recall, is a dodgy bit of apartheid chicanery that was stealthily introduced during the dying moments of white rule giving the king absolute sway over about 60% of KZN. 

Little wonder, then, that a high-level parliamentary panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe last year recommended that the trust be dissolved as its was unconstitutional and found that there were inconsistencies in the way government implemented its own land policies.

Motlanthe further enraged Ill-Will’s supporters when he described tribal chiefs who managed the trust as “village tinpot dictators”. 

It was a comment that Phathisizwe Chiliza, who chairs the KZN House of Traditional Leaders, regards as a terrible insult, and unsurprisingly there was much talk of fiercely defending wounded Zulu pride by going on the warpath.

As the king darkly put it, “I promise you, I will not allow anyone to take away the life and soul of the Zulu nation. I warned [President Cyril] Ramaphosa — as the governing party, they must not make the mistake of taking away the land of the Zulus because all hell will break loose.”

But perhaps it would be a good thing if KZN seceded. 

The province won’t be missed. It is a dreadful place and no good has ever come from it. The locals are surly and superstitious, given to virginity testing and other unreasonable behaviour. The torrid climate is unfit for wine drinking and the beaches, we’re reliably informed, are filthy.

South Africa will be so much the better with it gone. Think of the billions of rands the country will save by not wasting it on the Zulu royal households. Of which there are many.

In this regard, the king has been a great disappointment. Despite the attendant feathered finery — and we have noted that he often gamely turns out in public dressed like a dancer with the Folies Bergère — he has consistently and wilfully failed to become a top tourist attraction.

Unlike the Windsors, say, who do much to bring visitors obsessed with monarchy to the United Kingdom, our Ill-Will appears more concerned with chasing away foreigners than getting them to part with their dollars.

Naturally, KwaZexit won’t be unconditional. When the province goes, it is imperative that they take along that great waste of time, Carl Niehaus.

Was there ever an individual more in need of a restraining order compelling him to keep away from meetings and microphones than this attention-seeking unguided missile? 

Niehaus, we all know, is a regular Che Guevara in his own lunchtime, and wherever there are tinpot dictators in need of craven sycophancy, there he too will seek his fortune. 

So it was quite unremarkable that this great revolutionary, who these days fibs as a spokesman for the Mkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, should turn up at Ulundi to throw in his two cents’ worth. 

Motlanthe’s attack on traditional leaders, Niehaus told the chiefs, “was entirely unjustified” and he went on to slam the recommendations that the act that formed the Ingonyama Trust be repealed.

Unfortunately for him, the ruling party duly despatched its tiniest member, the dwarfish Fikile Mbalula, to scotch Niehaus’s claims that he had addressed the imbizo on behalf of the ANC.

Niehaus, Mbalula said, was representing “his own jacket” when he apologised to the chiefs on behalf of the party. “If there is any apology,” he added, “the ANC leadership will process that and it will speak for itself.”

Mbalula, who is the ANC’s 2019 elections strategist, also did some sucking up to the chiefs by distancing the party from Motlanthe’s remarks about tinpot dictators. They clearly need those Zulu votes.

Niehaus, meanwhile, has since denied that he had made any apology on behalf of either the ANC or the MKMVA. 

But then, who really cares what he says?

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.