Sunday, December 14, 2014


News that the construction of a E800m (US$80m) strategic oil reserve facility at Phuzumoya in the Lubombo region of Swaziland has stalled should not surprise anyone.

King Mswati III promised his subjects in 2013 that the facility was ‘geared into transforming lives and take the entire region into higher heights’.

But, like so many of the King’s promises, it did not materialise.

The Sunday Observer newspaper, which is in effect owned by the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported, ‘The Phuzumoya project is for the construction of a 90 million litres national strategic fuel facility which will see the country’s energy sector assuming a central role in the development of the kingdom and its economy.’

‘When launching the project, His Majesty assured that those to be affected by the project in whatever way would be taken care of, to the satisfaction of everyone concerned. The project will be funded by taxpayers.’

The newspaper reported (7 December 2014) that the project had not started and suggested that King Mswati might have been misled by advisors.

However, the failure at Phuzumoya, is just one of a long line of broken promises made by the King. In November 2009, King Mswati announced a plan partly financed from in the oil state of Qatar to build an E35bn (US$4.8bn at the then exchange rate) ‘world class facility’ that would store at least a three-month supply of fuel for Swaziland. It did not happen.

In November 2012 the king returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Taiwan, claiming that he had secured Taiwanese investment to build a pharmaceutical plant, a food processing plant, a bottled water plant, a cosmetics plant and a granite and marble venture – which, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland newspaper, were expected to create more than 3,000 jobs. It has not happened.

In April 2009 King Mswati III announced the building of a multi-billion emalangeni Swazi City, financed by international money and comprising a 25,000 sq m shopping, entertainment and ‘wellness’ centre ‘to rival the world’. There would be a Science and Technology Park, a hi-technology industrial Site and an expansion of the Matsapha Industrial Site. It would be completed by 2012, creating 15,000 new jobs. It did not happen.

In October 2009 the Government the King handpicked promised an E1.5bn ‘facelift’ for the Swazi capital city Mbabane. That money would buy a civic centre and a shopping mall, described at the time as a ‘fully fledged state of the art 21st Century Civic Centre befitting a country’s capital city’. Work was expected to start in June 2010 and take three years to build. It did not happen.

In October 2010, the Swazi Government announced its ‘fiscal adjustment roadmap’ to save the kingdom’s economy. This would include attracting investment to create, ‘between 25,000 and 30,000 new jobs’ in the private sector. These jobs have not materialised.

These are just some of the plans announced that border on fantasy. The truth is that Swaziland is a poor country that has no need of luxury hotels capable of hosting 53 heads of state at a time. Seven in 10 of the Swaziland population of 1.3 million are so poor they earn less than US$2 a day. No foreign investors are going to want to be involved in such schemes.

The Swaziland Government has no money to build grandiose developments.

A report published by the UK think-tank Chatham House in September 2013 stated that Swaziland’s gross domestic product is only 1 percent of that of its neighbour South Africa and was a relatively poor country compared to other countries in the region and in recent years it has failed to reach the same levels of economic growth as its neighbours.

‘The Swazi economy is on an unsustainable trajectory,’ the report concluded.

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