Prayer Service Hosted by the Ingonyama Trust Board on Behalf of his Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation


Ulundi: 10 June 2018

His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu; Members of the Royal Family; Chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust Board, Judge Jerome Ngwenya; Members of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Ms TP Ndlovu; AmaKhosi and Izinduna; Esteemed members of the clergy of various denominations; leaders in our nation.

We are grateful to His Majesty our King for extending an invitation to us through the Ingonyama Trust Board, to gather and pray. We honour the King for his wisdom, for in the present time of suffering and uncertainty, there is no better approach than to seek the Lord.

Just as our King is concerned with the wellbeing of all his people, so the sovereign Lord is concerned with all of His creation. We know that He will incline His ear to hear us, for that is what a good king does.

There is a passage in the book of Isaiah, in the Bible, that resonates with the state of our Province of KwaZulu Natal. I read from Isaiah, chapter 33, from verse 7 –

“Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets;
The envoys of peace weep bitterly…
The treaty is broken,
its witnesses are despised,
no one is respected.
The land mourns and wastes away…”

When I read that passage, I was struck by how familiar it felt. Our Province is beset by violent crime and lawlessness. So much so, that our brave men – our police officers and fathers – cry aloud in the streets. The envoys of peace, those who call for justice and unity, weep bitterly, for we see the grief imposed on our people by acts of crime and acts of violence.

Where there is no peace, and where the rule of law is failing, economic distress is sure to follow. Those who seek to invest their resources and plant their industries are looking for security and stability. Where there is criminality, corruption and weak leadership, investors shy away. And when the economy suffers, the land mourns and wastes away.

This image of the land mourning is a powerful one. Right now, land is at the centre of terrible upheaval.

Throughout South Africa, Government’s programme of land reform, driven by the ruling party, has failed to meet the rightful expectations and enduring needs of our people. Far too many of the poorest and most vulnerable still have no access to land which would allow them to produce food, establish a home and provide security for their families.

We have reached a point of crisis, where the call for land reform has become a clarion call, warning of imminent danger if needs are not met. Tragically, there are already attempted land invasions, ignited by the call of irresponsible leaders for people to act outside the law. Such calls have even been made in Parliament, which tells us the depth of the danger.

In response to the crisis, the ruling party has adopted the policy of land expropriation without compensation. But there has been no indication of which land will be taken, under what conditions, and from whom. Except for the call to expropriate land held in Trust for the benefit of our people here in KwaZulu Natal.

Through our former Head of State, and through our country’s Deputy President, the intention has been made clear that traditional land must be taken away from the custodianship of traditional leaders and placed under the control of Government. The land held in Trust by His Majesty our King is being eyed for expropriation. The means is through the scrapping of the Ingonyama Trust Act.

This Act has been legitimately in place for 24 years. It has been comprehensively debated in the KwaZulu Natal Legislature, and amended to the full satisfaction of all parties. During that process, the ruling party announced that the amended Act (and I quote) “makes it possible for this Province to move ahead with the programme of development…”

Yet now there are accusations that having land administered by traditional leaders on behalf of traditional communities somehow runs contrary to the legal framework of a democratic South Africa. Insults are being hurled at the institution of traditional leadership from people in positions of authority; people who should know better. Tensions are being stirred and the possibility of things ending in disaster is very real.

His Majesty our King has warned that a dangerous situation is being created; and in return he is castigated for threatening violence. I plead with our thought-leaders and opinion-makers, our analysts and journalists, to please be circumspect. It is easy to cast aspersions, claiming that someone is threatening violence when they are in fact warning that the conditions for violence to spontaneously erupt are being created.

Our King is fulfilling his duty and responsibility when he sounds this warning.

The fact is that people have deeply held connections to the land, and find their identity in the traditions expressed by the institution of ubukhosi. When one talks about “village tin-pot dictators” and plans to expropriate land, people are going to get upset. It is conceivable that tensions of this degree could result in violence. And it is a foolish man who ignores that fact to point fingers and accuse anyone of “threatening violence”.

I am speaking of these things not to raise tensions, but to be open about the dangers confronting us. Our esteemed men and women of faith, our religious leaders, need to understand the depth of the problems, so that they will know how to pray.

A promise has indeed been broken here in KwaZulu Natal, and its witnesses are indeed despised. As much as I make myself a target of hatred when I point out the promise to traditional leadership that was broken eighteen years ago, I cannot help but bear witness.

Eighteen years ago, an ad hoc Cabinet Committee committed to amend Chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution to ensure that the role, powers and functions of traditional leadership would be enshrined in legislation.

When that promise was broken, the way was opened for inevitable tensions and conflict between government and traditional leadership. The lines of authority were blurred and increasingly an institution that is recognised by South Africa’s Constitution became side-lined as anachronistic to a democratic dispensation. The conflict that is coming to a head today was created by a broken promise.

When the government of a country holds its commitments lightly, the space opens for abuse of power and corruption. Tragically, our country has become mired in corruption. It is already spawning organised crime, which is the standard evolution of corrupt societies. Our police officers and security officers are targeted by criminals, sending the unmistakable message that the rule of law has been overturned by the rule of man.

We, as the leaders of our people, here in KwaZulu Natal, gather with heavy hearts. We are witnesses to our people’s pain as children are murdered and grandmothers are attacked. We console the grieving families, and urge that rightful anger be channelled away from revenge. We try to cut off the roots of bitterness, even as we see corruption take food away from the innocent. With every act of criminality, we are the ones who try to make amends, trying to meet the needs that have been created, trying to calm communities and heal wounds.

Now, as Government threatens to take away traditional land from the custodianship of our King and AmaKhosi, we are the ones who call for calm. We urge that this debate be dealt with carefully, respectfully, and with due consideration to the history of our land and the role of our monarch. We ask that those in positions of authority speak without insults, and have the wisdom to also listen.

But above all we pray for the intervention of the Lord to prevent tragedy from marking this painful chapter. The Lord alone knows the hearts of His people, and He alone knows the path He has set for our nation. We pray for His will and His wisdom, for His guidance and intervention.

We know from the Word of God what is required of us. In the same book of Isaiah, Chapter 33, the prophet continues (I read from verse 15) –

“He who walks righteously
and speaks what is right,
who rejects gain from extortion
and keeps his hand from accepting bribes,
who stops his ears against plots of murder
and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil –
this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
His bread will be supplied,
And water will not fail him.
Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
And view a land that stretches afar.”

As leaders, we must walk uprightly. A great responsibility rests on our shoulders. Our country appears to be a nation at war with itself. Ours is the duty to declare peace, to restore unity, and nurture stability. We do not do this in our own strength, but relying on the strength of the Lord.

We listen now with attentiveness to the message of our King, as he speaks to his people in this difficult hour. I am humbled to present His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation.