Please, your royal highness, pay me my money.
That’s the plea from a world-renowned wood craftsman who is struggling to recover R111,000 for luxury thrones he made for Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and his wives more than four years ago.
Despite a legal bid to recover the money he is owed, Kuber Eadhev Singh’s demands have fallen on deaf ears as numerous telephone calls and statements sent to the king’s office in Nongoma have been ignored.
Singh, 78, from KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal, who has carved gifts for the British royal family and US presidents, has attempted to recover the money owed to him for two thrones, a table for the royal stick, a podium for the Zulu monarch, a throne for each of his seven wives, 10 tables on which the queens could put their handbags and three tea trays.
So fed up was Singh that in 2017 he served the king’s office with summons demanding payment for the furniture he had made for the Zulu royal family, but it was also ignored.
In the summons, Singh said he was approached in March 2014 at his firm, Woodfurn Furniture Manufacturers, by the king’s aide, Nhlamvuyelanga Sithole, who brought with him as a sample an armchair that he said belonged to the Zulu king.
Sithole asked him to manufacture two chairs matching the upholstery and colour of the sample and also asked for seven chairs, a podium and 10 tables.
Singh quoted Sithole, who used to come to his factory several times a week to monitor progress, R160,000 for the job but with a R48,763 discount provided payment was made within 30 days of receipt of the goods.
Singh said Sithole told him the king had agreed to the R111,264, to be paid by the now defunct royal household department. This department was disbanded by the KwaZulu-Natal government in 2015 and replaced with the royal household trust, in a bid to make the king and royal family self-sustainable.
Singh said that after the furniture had been delivered, Sithole then said the king’s office in Nongoma would pay the bill.
Singh said he had used “all means possible” to get his money and had “tried to avoid the issue of summons” out of respect for the royals and to avoid embarrassing the king.
The king’s spokesman, Prince Thulani Zulu, said he was aware of the matter but referred queries to Sithole, who, having previously said the matter was being dealt with and having attributed the delay to the provincial government’s decision to disband the royal household department, did not respond to an e-mail and SMSes sent to him.
King Goodwill Zwelithini is regarded as SA’s most pampered monarch and is allocated an annual budget of nearly R60m on top of his annual salary of more than R1m. He has used Singh’s throne on many occasions, including his lavish birthday celebration at Linduzulu Palace in Nongoma last July.
Singh said his next step was to approach the sheriff to go to Nongoma and pick up his furniture and that he would do this soon.
Provincial government spokesperson Thami Ngidi also did not respond to queries about the matter.
Singh sent the late US president George Bush a message of sympathy inscribed on a table made from a 1,200-year-old tamboti tree. He also gave a hand-carved table to US president Ronald Reagan in 1989 and received a thank-you letter from him.
He was sent a personal invitation to the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and gave the lattera jewellery box made of tamboti wood. He also gave a jewellery box to Queen Elizabeth.
Former SA presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki were also recipients of his hand-carved collector’s items.