Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/TEBOGO LETSIE
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/TEBOGO LETSIE

King Goodwill Zwelithini and Afrikaans nationalist group AfriForum are forming a partnership to develop agriculture on vast swathes of land the monarch controls through a trust, AfriForum’s CEO said on Tuesday.

The move comes as the ANC takes steps to change the constitution to expropriate land without compensation while also seeking to provide security of tenure to people living on royal tribal lands — policies opposed by AfriForum and the king.

“We are finalising a memorandum of understanding to make the agreement formal,” AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel told Reuters.


King Goodwill Zwelithini controls 2.8-million hectares, a fragmented sub-tropical area the size of Belgium, under the Ingonyama Trust.

“We have numerous members that have successful farms in the vicinity of the trust. The idea is to get a formula where there can be co-operation between our members and people living on the trust land to stimulate agricultural development,” Kriel said. Much of the farming in these areas is focused on sugar, cattle, game and high-value fruit, such as avocados.

AfriForum is generally seen as a right-wing, nationalist group that has lobbied for support for “white rights” in the US.

On Tuesday, the eNCA news channel’s website quoted the king as saying: “I’m asking AfriForum ... to come and help us. They are willing to work with me and my father’s people to uplift agriculture in our land.”

The monarch, who wields influence over millions of rural voters, reiterated his warnings to the ANC not to include his territory in its land reform drive. “Anyone who wants to be elected by us must come and kneel here and commit that ‘I will never touch your land’.” 

The king said over the weekend that he wanted President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign an agreement backing a pledge earlier this year not to expropriate trust land or change property relationships in the region. Other traditional leaders have also told the ANC not to undermine their authority on the 13% of South African territory they rule, much of which straddles rich deposits of platinum and other minerals.

Such leaders see themselves as the custodians of culture and traditions but critics say some have enriched themselves through their control of access to resources.

The ANC’s main target is white-owned property. Most private South African land remains in white hands, making it a potent symbol of wider economic disparities.