KwaZulu-Natal premier S'bu Ndebele has insisted that his wife being given 10 Nguni cows from the provincial Department of Agriculture is part of a government "cultural initiative".
Ndebele yesterday lashed out at the media, saying it was clear that the Nguni revitalisation programme was misunderstood. He said the programme was intended to alleviate poverty in the province.
The allocation of more than 600 head of prized Nguni cattle to government officials and members of their families has been severely criticised.
A report by the provincial Department of Agriculture said the recipients, including amakhosi,have land in their possession that can advance the programme.
It was decided to distribute the cattle to the those who qualified as "historically disadvantaged".
Recipients include IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, former MPL Lionel Mtshali and traditional leaders including King Goodwill Zwelithini .
Ndebele and newly elected MEC for agriculture, Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, said the distribution of cows to government officials was legitimate.
King Zwelithini was given two bulls.
Mtshali, leader of the IFP, bluntly denied benefitting from the Nguni revitalisation programme.
"I have never accepted any cattle from the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs," said Mtshali.
According to the department's list, Mtshali was allocated 30 cattle. He said a senior official made an offer to him signed by head of department Jabulani Mjwara, but he rejected the offer.
Mtshali insisted the department must produce the relevant documentation or apologise unreservedly.
There is a massive probe into the Agriculture Department following charges of the misuse of taxpayers' money and allegations that senior government officials and their spouses benefited from projects. The matter first surfaced a month ago after calls by the IFP for Ndebele to probe over-expenditure within the department and fire its then heads.