Friday 4 May 2018

Darren Olivier

The Zulu Challenge

"Millions More for Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini" is a headline that appeared in yesterday's TimesLive circulation creating the usual outcry, provoked by the title of the piece. It is a pity that the value of the Zulu monarchy is so misunderstood, even if a component of this emotive criticism is warranted.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu announced during his budget vote for the 2018/19 financial year in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday that the Zulu monarch's annual budget has been increased by R7-million‚ from R58.8-million last year to R65.8-million this year. (about USD520k)

The article explains that the budget is required to support the King, his family, their farms and the Royal Household Trust which was set up to make the Zulu Royal family self sustainable. This may therefore sound like a few people benefitting from the allocation but in reality every single person in South Africa stands to gain from it if this money is properly spent and frankly, the budget is probably still far too small.

Whilst the amount of money is significantly large in comparison with the median income of a Zulu person living in Zululand or to the average South African, it is less than is received by South Africa's top earning CEOs and not even double the median pay for a Facebook employee. However, even my own comparison is misguided for the function of the Zulu King is not equivalent to a CEO or to a Facebook employee, it is substantially greater than that.

Whilst I am aware that the Zulu nation dislikes comparison with any other monarchy or nation (I made this mistake once in a presentation to them) the criticism it faces is much the same as those critics of say, the British monarchy. At the same time, its part within southern african culture is also no less significant than that of the British monarchy to its own culture. Arguably the role of the Zulu nation (and others) is even more important in the context of a continent where cultural identity and understanding is so critical, and where misappropriation is commonplace (there are well over 100 cases of potential misuse of Zulu cultural expressions, for instance).

Part of the Zulu King's function and responsibility to his people is to preserve Zulu culture and so the money designated to his household, in part, is required for this purpose. It is estimated that the value of the British monarchy is USD88 billion. This article claims that each royal costs the British taxpayer 18.5 million pounds, and David Haigh of Brand Finance describes the British monarchy spend as "a giant PR campaign for the UK".

Against the numbers in the Brand Finance reports, a spend of USD529k per annum for the Zulu monarchy is meagre. The challenge faced by the Zulu nation is then, not only to justify this spend in terms of accountability but also to communicate its own worth by delivering, not only to their people but to the region in general. It will need to partner with professionals to do so, as the TimesLive article explains.

From an IP perspective there is much to be done and a start has been made. Quite apart from the spend required to "put the genie back in the lamp" and secure, audit and preserve the culture through traditional IP systems available to them and, in time, indigenous knowledge legislation there is a need to embark on a revenue building model based on that IP. This requires expense and the portion that may be allocated out of the USD529k for such a project, is a shoestring in comparison to what is required.

There is also need to assist rather than criticise the Zulu nation, and others in South Africa, and the Zulu nation needs to meet their challenge responsibly, or continue to face the adversity.

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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