“It doesn’t make sense to have a house worth a million but your people are hungry”

Opposition parties in KwaZulu-Natal have questioned the provincial government’s decision to set aside R15 million to build houses for four tribal chiefs. This, after the KZN premier’s official residence was reportedly set to be upgraded for a cost of R32-million.

The Daily Vox asked Durban residents whether provincial government should be be footing the bills of traditional leaders or if that money could be better spent.

Nkululeko Dladla, 23, student, Durban
The amount of money used in some of these traditional affairs is ridiculous considering that we have a lot of issues in the province alone that need to be addressed. We have the issue of homeless people and disadvantaged students. All this money could be used for something valuable such as funding financially excluded students. Even building shelters for the homeless, in a way creating job opportunities in the process. Traditional leaders could be paid a reasonable decent amount in order to make a living and not to show off.

The KwaZulu Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ (Cogta) move to spend R15 million to build houses for four tribal chiefs has been heavily criticised. The Democratic Alliance chief whip, Francois Rodgers said, “I don’t think it should be the responsibility of the provincial government to build houses for tribal houses. The fact of the matter is that we don’t have money.”

Sesethu Mlonyeni, 25, student, Durban
Traditional leaders are a huge part of our culture and they deserve to paid but obviously not so much. In some rural areas, people are dependent on them meaning that they have a role they play in the society. But instead of spending loads of money only on them; some of the money could be used to develop their communities. They could provide people with seeds to grow their own crops and sell in order to curb poverty. It doesn’t make sense to have a house worth a million but your people are hungry. It’s necessary for government to provide security for traditional leaders but this amount of money is too much.

In 2014, President Jacob Zuma announced that the stipends paid to traditional leaders would increase from R1 300 to R8 600 a month. It later emerged that they had not been paid since 2006, and that the department responsible for paying them, Cogta, was underfunded. In March this year, the KZN finance MEC announced that the money to pay these salaries would have to come partly from other provincial departments and partly from Cogta. This meant that the budgets from those provincial departments would have to be cut. The bill is projected to be around R250-million.

Ayanda Zondi, 24, student, Durban
Chiefs no longer hold a vital role in the society but I still feel as though they deserve recognition from the government. But they don’t need mansions or flashy cars, they do require decent houses just not worth so much. There are students who have to drop out of university because they can’t afford to pay for their studies; and those are the future leaders of this country whose future should be invested in. I am not against provision of security for them but money should be allocated according to the role they play. A lot could be done with such large amount of money. What’s the point of one having a luxury house while his people are suffering?

Spokesperson for Cogta, Lennox Mabaso said that chiefs are unifiers of the nation and deserved to have official residences, “where they can host their guests not under the trees”.

Sibongeleni Shabane, 28, student, Inanda
I don’t see a need for money to be spent on chiefs. We are living in a new era where tradition no longer affects us as much so I don’t see their role anymore. For government to spend so much money on them is a total waste. Out of everything that they have to allocate a budget for, this should be one thing they allocate the lowest amount for. Instead they should be using the money to build anything that will help develop the community, even if it’s a community hall where people can hold meetings. One person having a house worth so much money doesn’t help those around him in anyway, especially in rural areas where so much poverty is still prevalent.

Featured image via Flickr