This is worrying because King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has in the past forced his hand-picked governments to waste millions on his own, still incomplete, vanity projects.
Top of the list is the Sikhuphe International Airport that remains only partially built in a Swazi wasteland, a very long way from any town or city. One informed estimated published by the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati himself, said the total cost of the airport could top US$1 billion before it is finished – if it ever is. The most recent date for completion – the end of July 2011 – passed without fanfare and with Sikhuphe nowhere near finished.
The King has a second vanity project that he has demanded be built – the Royal Science and Technology Park – that is estimated to cost E850 million (US$ 120 million) for the first phase alone. This ‘park’ is supposed to consist of a bio-technological park and an information technology park at Nokwane.
No one bothered to make a needs-assessment for the park (or the airport for that matter), but when the plan was launched in November 2010, project manager Moses Zungu said world class researchers would want to come to work at the site. He even said that the kingdom’s only university, the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), would play a key role in providing expertise at the park.
That’s the same UNISWA that hasn’t been able to open for business this academic year because there is no money.
According to Swazi Finance Minister Majozi Sithole this week, E1 billion of an E2.4 billion loan from South Africa will be spent on ‘capital projects’ – twice the amount to be used on social projects, such as health, education and grants for the elderly.
King Mswati and his governments have a long record of wasting public money on unnecessary projects and spending. Before South Africa hands over the money, we should all be told clearly how it is to be spent. None of it must be used on the King’s vanity projects. They are unnecessary and a complete waste of money.
NEW VANITY PROJECT FOR SWAZI KING