The private jet of King Mswati III’s of Swaziland has been impounded in Canada after a court attached it for unpaid debts.
The attachment reportedly took place in December 2014, but the fact has only just been made public.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, broke the news on Friday (27 March 2015). It quoted ‘reliable sources, who are very close to the matter but requested not to be identified.’ It reported, ‘The attachment was issued by a court held in camera in Canada, in favour of Shanmuga Rethenam, popularly known as Shan of former Salgaocar company.’
The newspaper added, ‘The source said during the court case, Shan submitted that he was being owed about E35 million (US$3.5 million) by a Swazi Company which is operating the jet on behalf of the Government of Swaziland.’
The acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Jabulile Mashwama later confirmed this to the Swazi Parliament. Mashwama said the jet had been taken to Canada for routine maintenance and had expected it to be returned to Swaziland in January 2015.
The jet, an updated Douglas DC-9, has a controversial history. It was reportedly given to the King as a birthday gift in 2012. The King and the Swazi Government refused to disclose who gave the plane, saying they were development partners of Swaziland who wanted to remain anonymous.
At the time it was reported, but neither confirmed nor denied, that the jet was a gift from Salgaocar (now known as SG Iron Ore Mining), a company that had recently been awarded a contract by the King to mine for iron ore at Ngwenya, within a protected area inside the Malolotja Game Reserve. This was despite fears that its work would pollute the water supply of many rural people and also the population of Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital.
The mine was forced to cease trading in August 2014 after a series of events orchestrated by Sihle Dlamini, who is Director Administration at the King’s Office and Assistant Private Secretary to the King. He was also the King’s personal representative on the SG Iron board of directors.
A compensation claim for at least US$141 million was prepared by Southern Africa Resources Ltd (SARL), which had a 50 percent stake in SG Iron Ore Mining, against the Kingdom of Swaziland at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
HOW SWAZI KING DESTROYED IRON MINE