The Swazi Government earlier this month (August 2015) announced its support for a canal and port to be built linking Mlawula in Swaziland with the Mozambique coast. The port is planned for 15 to 20 hectares of land. The government also said a 26-kilometre-long canal would be built. The entire project is expected to cost at least US$3 billion.
Now, the Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique has reported that the plans are badly thought through.
It reported on Tuesday (25 August 2015), ‘First, no point on the coast is a mere 26 kilometres from Mlawula. As the crow flies, the nearest point on the Mozambican coast is over 70 kilometres from the site of the proposed port.
‘Furthermore, as anyone who has driven from Maputo to Swaziland can testify, the land rises steeply. Canals are fine for transporting goods over flat terrain - but if there are hills in the way, locks must be built, dramatically increasing the costs. Building a canal with a system of locks capable of holding ocean-going vessels would be a massive engineering undertaking.
‘Such an operation is also entirely unnecessary.
‘Swaziland's main trading partner is South Africa. Over 90 percent of Swaziland's imports come from South Africa, and about 70 percent of its exports go to South Africa. So for the great bulk of Swazi trade a canal through Mozambique is simply irrelevant, as a glimpse at a map should show Moses Motsa and the Swazi government.
‘The rest of Swaziland's trade, for example with Europe or the United States, can be easily handled by the port of Maputo. There are already reasonable rail and road links between Swaziland and Maputo.
‘Upgrading these would certainly be much cheaper than building an inland port.’
It added that the Mozambican Government has not yet commented on the Swazi plan and do not seem to have been consulted on the possibility of a canal going through its territory.
The new information casts serious doubts on the Swazi Government’s ability to comprehend the complexity of the project.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom where most news media are censored, had reported the plan was confirmed by Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Gideon Dlamini.
The Times reported him saying, ‘At government level, we are fully behind the project and we are giving it undivided support. The project owners had done presentations to Cabinet and we interrogated it and found that it is a wonderful one. Following Cabinet’s realisation that the project is good and viable, Prime Minister [Barnabas] Sibusiso Dlamini then tasked the different concerned ministries to start working together with the project owners straight away.’
SWAZILAND ‘TO BUILD US$3bn SHIPPING PORT