Monday, April 27, 2009


The mystery is deepening over an alleged 5 billion US dollar (E50 million) deal to build power stations in Swaziland.

When news that King Mswati III had secured this amount to pay for a company called Franken Mining to build coal power stations broke earlier this month (April 2009) suspicions were aroused because no one could trace a company called Franken Mining.

The waters got murkier when it was revealed that the Swazi Government had not been involved in any negotiations over the project: instead King Mswati deliberately by-passed ministers and his office made the deal itself.

Now, comes further disturbing news about the company at the centre of the deal: Franken Mining.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reports today (27 April 2009) that it has hit a brick wall in its search to find Franken Mining.

It reports, ‘The Times is in possession of correspondence between the company and local officials, who include Reverend Absalom Dlamini, former Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Prince Mangaliso, now referred to as Chief Logcogco.

‘These letters have telephone numbers (both fixed and mobile) as well as a postal box address. They also have an email address.

‘For the last four or five weeks, the landline number listed has not been functioning.Dialling ignites an automatic message purportedly from Telkom South Africa.

‘The message says: “The number you have dialed does not correspond to a subscriber in service.”

‘The mobile phone number is always on voicemail and a recorded message informs the caller not to leave a message, as one will be sent automatically to the owner.

‘According to the letters in our possession, Franken Mining’s postal address is at Menlo Park in Pretoria, South Africa. The deal is also to be facilitated by Professor Frans Whelpton. Professor Whelpton’s name became known when it was linked to negotiations for the return of E28 million paid as a deposit for the king’s jet.’

I questioned the deal in a blogpost on 8 April 2009 and asked if the Swazi people are about to be the victims of a gigantic fraud.

Myself and others working independently have been trying to piece together the background to this deal. Chief among our concerns is that 5 billion dollars is said to be available through donor aid to pay for two coal-powered electricity generating stations to be built in the kingdom but there is no evidence about which international donor agencies have contributed the funding or what process was gone through before awarding the contract to Franken.

Swaziland has a long track record of corruption and financial incompetence and it is estimated by the Swazi Government itself that E40 million is lost to corruption in Swaziland each and every month. Also, the long running saga of the E28 million that was secretly (and illegally) paid as a deposit by the Swazi Government to buy a private jet costing E720 million for King Mswati indicates that Swaziland’s rulers cannot be trusted to spend money wisely.

What we do know about the latest power station project is that it is connected to King Mswati through the Swazi National Council (Liqoqo), the king’s advisory body. Prince Mangaliso, chair of the SNC, confirmed to the Times that funding had been secured on behalf of the King’s Projects. He said the rights to coal reserves in Swaziland had been allocated to Franken Mining.

The sums involved in the power station deal are vast: 5 billion US dollars is roughly the equivalent of Swaziland’s entire gross domestic product. The total amount of imports into Swaziland in 2008 was worth roughly 2 billion US dollars.

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