The ANC-led government and the Inkatha Freedom Party in KwaZulu-Natal are embroiled in a bitter tit-for-tat spat over the Zulu royal family.
The latest feud involves six Toyota SUV’s that the KZN government gifted to the widows of the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini. The five Toyota Prado’s and one Fortuna were handed over to the queens in Ulundi last week.
According to Premier Sihle Zikalala, the vehicle handover was part of a deal struck with the late king before his death. But the handover was delayed to allow the family to mourn.
The IFP’s Blessed Gwala, however, slammed the gesture, accusing the ANC-led government of trying to curry favour with the royal house.
Among other things, Gwala accused the ANC of “self-glorification-seeking theatrical gimmicks, intended to divide the Zulu Royal Household.”
Gwala said the vehicles should have been handed over to the queens while the King was still alive, and alluded to the possibility that this agreement was placed on hold “for some unknown reason.”
In response Zikalala said in a statement: “The KwaZulu-Natal Office of the Premier notes with utter dismay and concern the recent unfortunate utterances attributed to the Inkatha Freedom Party’s MPL Blessed Gwala, which are riddled with lies and seek to cause confusion over the handover of new vehicles to the Zulu Royal Household.”
Zikalala said matters related to the royal household shouldn’t be arbitrarily discussed in the public, but the ANC cannot keep silent in the face of Gwala’s “wild remarks”.
“Mr Gwala’s allegations that the vehicles were purchased a long time ago are devoid of facts and amount to a figment of his imagination,” retaliated Zikalala.
He said he has a paper trail proving when the cars were bought. One of the cars was also withdrawn after the death of Queen regent Mantfombi Shiyiwe Dlamini Zulu in April, who ruled temporarily after Zwelithini’s death.
During the vehicle handover last week, Zikalala also explained that planned renovations for the Zulu royal households had been placed on hold after the Queen died.
“For the IFP to crawl out of the woodwork and allege that KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace has been ‘ignored’ reeks of malice on the matter of the vehicles is disingenuous intent and political opportunism of the worst kind,” said Zikalala.
The IFP and the KZN government have accused each other of using the Royal household as a political football to sow divisions and seek relevance.
While the royal household has no executive powers, it remains a powerful traditional leadership structure and wields influence over one-fifth of South Africa’s population.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says both parties stand to gain political mileage when it comes to having the support of the royal family.
“Historically, the IFP has always had a close connection with family. The party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is a prince, and he has become much closer to the family since the king’s death,” said Mathekga.
“The ANC is struggling in KZN, and they will want to appease the royal family to gain some political mileage,” he concluded.