The airport, formerly known as Sikhuphe, was opened in March 2014. The construction cost was estimated to be US$250 million, but fewer than 150 passengers a day fly out of the airport, which is built in a wilderness. Only one airline uses the airport for a route to Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa.
Now, Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) Director General Solomon Dube has told businesspeople that there are plans to establish a city near the airport. In its report on the matter, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, called it a ‘glittering’ plan. It reported on Friday (18 September 2015) the plan would include, ‘opportunities such as hotels, hospitals, malls and other permanent structures which can be found in cities will be available’.
The talking-up of the airport is nothing new. By any objective criteria, the airport has been a failure, but it was the brainchild of King Mswati III himself who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and this failure is ignored within his kingdom.
The airport was built in an attempt to support the King’s claim that his kingdom would be a ‘First World’ nation by 2022. At present seven in ten of the 1.3 population live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 a day.
The city is not the only recent grandiose plan to be announced in Swaziland. Last month (August 2015), the Swazi Government, which is unelected and handpicked by the King, announced its support for a US$3 billion scheme to build a seaport in the landlocked kingdom connected to the coast of Mozambique by canal.
U-TURN ON SUCCESS OF KING’S AIRPORT
SWAZI GOVT STANDS BY FLAWED PORT PLANS
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