28 November 2004

South Africa: Staffers of Zulu Royal Household Battle It Out

Johannesburg — A SENIOR Zulu royal household department official has shed new light on the behind-the-scenes drama in the running of King Goodwill Zwelithini's affairs.

Papers filed in a court battle by the suspended head of the household department, Eric Gumbi, reveal a battle between himself and one of his senior staffers, Dr Vusi Shongwe, at the time a policy analyst and researcher there.

Gumbi was placed on "special leave" last month after intervention by Premier S'bu Ndebele.

He challenged the decision in court and it was overturned on November 11. But Gumbi was then suspended for 60 days.

Shongwe has been appointed acting head of the royal household department, while an investigation into its affairs is conducted by the premier's office.

Gumbi's Labour Court application included correspondence which shed some light on the complaints against him.

Shongwe claims there was a breakdown of working relations between him and Gumbi because of Shongwe's close ties with the Zulu monarch.

Shongwe said the king had, among other things, entrusted him with co-ordinating his daughter's wedding.

But relations deteriorated even further between the two when on November 2 last year the king instructed Shongwe to facilitate contact between himself and the Fifa inspection team during their tour to evaluate the country's readiness to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Shongwe claims that Gumbi barred him from accompanying the king - who was included in the Fifa delegation's itinerary - because of his relationship with SA's World Cup Bid committee chairman, Irvin Khoza, who is his uncle.

"The blood ties between Dr Khoza and myself made it so much easier for me to facilitate the contact," said Shongwe.

He said Gumbi frequently refused to approve Shongwe's claims for trips relating to the king's business, including his daughter's wedding.

"It is simply [Gumbi's] vendetta against me, and his desire to make things unnecessarily difficult for me."

Gumbi denied in letters handed in to court that he had refused to approve Shongwe's claims and that he was unhappy with his close ties with the king.

He said he had refused Shongwe's claims because proper procedures had not been followed. "Dr Shongwe functions as the policy analyst and researcher. There is nowhere

in his performance agreement where he works directly with the king," said Gumbi.

"I have never been briefed about the change in his performance agreement."

This week, Prince Derrick Zulu, a senior member of the Zulu royal family, said the king was never happy with the way his affairs had been handled by Gumbi.

"Ever since Gumbi was appointed as head of the royal household department, he has been doing things the way he liked. He never listened to the king."

He said the relationship between Gumbi and the king had not been good, as "Gumbi has never been close to the king".

Both Gumbi and Shongwe declined to comment this week.

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