Zulu king snubs Nkandla architect

Jeff Wicks and Mlondi Radebe, The Witness

Durban - The Zulu royal household has publicly snubbed President Jacob Zuma's personal architect Minenhle Makhanya, stating he will not design the Zulu king’s new palace.

The Nkandla architect had been widely reported as the lead architect appointed to design Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini's eighth palace in KwaNobamba near Ulundi.

But this week, in the wake of being saddled with the R155m bill to settle for his involvement in the building of the President’s Nkandla homestead, Makhanya was dropped.

No involvement

Royal household spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu said that Makhanya would play no part in the palace project.

“He [Makhanya] will have no involvement in the palace, I can assure you of that,” he said.

“I do not know where this is coming from but he will not be involved in the construction of the king’s palace,” Zulu added.

Papers filed by the Special Investigating Unit in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court this week saddle Makhanya with the blame for soaring costs on the Nkandla project.

Under his administration, the costs rose from a budgeted R28m to more than R246m, the SIU said.

The unit also said his appointment was illegal as no competitive bidding or open tender process was followed.

He had been appointed in spite of him not being on the department of public works’ list of registered suppliers.

Makhanya allegedly authorised improvements that were far beyond what had been budgeted for or which were regarded as necessary.

Private funding

The Zulu palace, understood to be worth over R30m, will be funded privately.

The millions needed to complete the project have been privately sought from business associates of Prince Butho Zwelithini, who has commercial interests in Equatorial Guinea.

As the listed architect, Makhanya would have designed the palace and taken responsibility for the crafting of budgets, as well as tenders and procurement. The palace project is still pending approval of the department of environmental affairs as the location is in the eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park.

Reports of Minenhle Makhanya and Associates being retained for the project broke days before he was named as the first respondent in the hard-hitting court papers.

The move on Wednesday by the monarch further isolates the embattled architect, who has 20 days to respond in writing to the SIU’s civil claim.

Land claim

Meanwhile, the king's plans to build the palace may have come up against their first major obstacle - a land claim from the nineties.

Details of the dispute emerged during a land claims workshop in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.

Msizeni Magwaza, a member of the Qanqatho community, told The Witness they were shocked when they heard the new palace would be located at the eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park.

“We applied in 1998 claiming the same land that the king will be using for his palace. We are still waiting to hear from the Land Claims Commission,” said Magwaza.

“We don’t know how they approved (this land) for the king.”

Prince Mbonisi Zulu, King Zwelithini’s spokesperson said this was the first they had heard about the land claim.

“We know that the palace has been approved and I can’t comment about the land claim because we do not know about it,” said Zulu.

Judge Jerome Ngwenya, chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust Board, said he too was unaware of any land claims and that the “land belongs to the king”.

The Ingonyama Trust Board is an entity responsible for administration of Ingonyama Trust land which comprises about 28 million hectares in mostly rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Trust was established in 1994 to hold the land in title for “the benefit, material welfare and social well-being of the members of the tribes and communities” living on the land.


Magwaza said the community, who live close to the disputed land, was already feeling the effects of the planned development.

A new fence that was installed to designate the king’s property had prevented their livestock from getting access to water in the nearby dam.

“Our animals are now mixing with wildebeest and more than 1 225 cows have died as a result of diseases they [picked up] from these wild animals,” said Magwaza.

A senior researcher from the Centre for Law and Society, Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, urged the Qanqatho community to challenge Ingonyama trust laws.

“The Ingonyama trust was formed three days before the first elections in South Africa and the community feels it (the KwaZulu Ingonyama Trust Act) gives more power to the Trust than the communities.

“Most of the communities feel they are abused by traditional leaders and that needs to be addressed,” said Buthelezi.