Monday, April 14, 2014


Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III holds assets worth E1.39 billion (US$140 million) in the vast Tibiyo TakaNgwane conglomerate of companies that he owns ‘in trust for the nation’.

Tibiyo made E218 million from its operations in a single year, according to financial results just published.

Although the King is said to hold the assets for the nation, he in facts uses a substantial amount of the money to finance his own lavish lifestyle. Swaziland has a population of 1.3 million, people and seven in ten of them live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day.

Meanwhile, King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has 13 palaces, a private jet, fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls Royce.

The money is also said to finance lavish lifestyles for his family. His 13 wives regularly enjoy luxury holidays in some of the world’s most glamorous tourist attractions.

Financial results published in the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, revealed Tibiyo made E218.1 million in the year ended March 2012. According to the company’s latest financial report, revenue increased by at least 46.6 per cent during that period.

Profits recorded in 2012 amounted to E116 million.

The Times reported at the end of 2012, Tibiyo had assets worth E1.39 billion.

Tibiyo fully and partly owns 23 major companies operating in the Swazi economy in manufacturing, property, agriculture, media, mining and tourism industries.

Tibiyo was established by Royal Charter in August 1968 by King Sobhuza II. 

Among companies owned or part-owned  by Tibiyo  are Swaziland Beverages, Parmalat Swaziland, Dalcrue Agriculture Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Nedbank (Swaziland) Limited, Swaziland Development and Finance Corporation (FINCORP), the Simunye Plaza, Bhunu Mall and the Swazi Observer newspaper.

Themba Dlamini, Managing Director (MD) of the company, said Tibiyo’s cash cow was largely the sugar cane industry. It has a stake in Ubombo Sugar (40 per cent stake), Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (50 per cent shares) and Inyoni Yami Swaziland Irrigation Scheme (IYSIS) among others.

In a report in 2013, the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa called Tibiyo a ‘closed, largely secretive, mega entity that accumulates wealth for the monarchy. Through it, patronage and nepotism are believed to be rewarded.’

Swazi people are not allowed to criticise King Mswati, but in 2013, the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) launched a Red October Campaign to cut all his financing. The CPS said in addition to Tibiyo TakaNgwane, the King he received income from Tisuka Taka Ngwane, which is a residential and commercial property developer.

‘Both funds account for some 50 percent of the Swazi economy,’ CPS said.

Kenneth Kunene, CPS General Secretary, said, ‘That poverty and disease are such blights on the lives of the Swazi people is directly and incontrovertibly linked to Mswati’s sources of income.

‘We think it is high time that everything held in trust for the Swazi nation is now handed over to the people. Mswati has done a bad job at holding it in trust for us. The country needs its wealth back, and the CPS is calling on people to demand what is theirs.’

The Red October Campaign also demanded that the R400 million (US$40 million) given to the royal family each year from the state budget be immediately cancelled.

‘Mswati and his family are no different than an organized crime syndicate,’ said Kunene. ‘And the way you deal with organized crime is to cut off its access to ready cash. That way it will shrivel up and die. And that’s what we want to see happen with the Mswati regime.’

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