King Mswati III of Swaziland is reportedly looking to buy a private A340 jet costing at least US$44 million.
If he does, the cost would be nearly three times the amount the Swazi Government spent last year on elderly grants (pensions), in the kingdom where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
It is also considerably more than the US$27 million the Swaziland Government received in external grants from intuitions such as the European Union.
News of the intended purchase circulated on the Internet following a reports in Swaziland newspapers that Swazi members of parliament were concerned that the King’s present DC-9 jet, which is impounded in Canada as part of a business dispute over unpaid debts, might be tampered with. They wanted the King to sell his present plane and buy a replacement.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported Kwaluseni MP Mkhosi Dlamini saying ‘safety issues must be highly considered on return of the aircraft because the person behind its attachment would still be bitter over its release’.
Following the report, a source close to the aviation industry told an Internet website the debate in parliament was a ‘smokescreen’ to disguise the fact that the King was already intending to buy a bigger Airbus A340 jet.
No information about the projected cost of the plane has yet been revealed, but a quick search on the Internet suggests a starting price might be about US$44 million. The cost could be considerably larger depending upon the age of the plane and the amount of refurbishments that would be needed to the aircraft’s interior to satisfy the King’s well-known tastes for luxury.
In Swaziland seven in ten of the 1.2 million population live in abject poverty on incomes less than US$2 per day.
In the national budget announced in February 2015, it was revealed that E156 million (US$15.6 million) had been spent on grants (pensions) for the elderly in 2014 – 2015. In Swaziland, the grant is the only income for many elderly people.
The grant was increased by E20 (US$2) per month to E240. The Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in February 2015 that this was sufficient. E20 can buy two loaves of bread.
SWAZI KING’S JET HELD FOR UNPAID DEBTS