Tuesday, June 16, 2009


More doubts are emerging about the Swaziland Government’s claim that it has secured up to E400 million (40 million US dollars) for development projects in the kingdom.

Finance Minister Majozi Sithole had claimed the money was a refund on a deposit for an aborted illegal attempt to buy a private jet for King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Sithole claimed that he had secured a refund of the deposit (believed to be E28 million) plus interest on the money, plus extra money from unnamed donors. A total of E400 million was said to be available for ‘social upliftment’ projects.

Part of the deal was that the Swazi Government would not be allowed to touch the money (by the government’s own admission about E40m a month is lost to corruption in Swaziland), but instead funds would be made available through a trust fund administered by Prof Frans Whelpton, of the University of South Africa.

I and others cast doubts on the whole project and wanted to know where the money was coming from. It was widely reported that a company called DAFIN Asset Finance Limited had a large role to play in setting up the project.

Now, the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reports that Whelpton and DAFIN were involved in a project in 2001 that claimed it would raise E40 million for Swaziland by a combination of advertising Swaziland as a tourist destination and a deal ‘to market the constitution’.

The Times has letters written by Prince Logcogco, the chairman of King Mswati’s advisory board, Liqoqo, and Whelpton that discussed aspects of the project.

But nothing has been delivered since. To read the Times report, click here.

Meanwhile, the Times’ companion newspaper, Times Sunday, has cast doubts on whether Sithole was telling the truth when he told the Swazi Parliament that money is available for social projects.

Mbongeni Mbingo, the Times Sunday editor, wrote there ‘was something fishy’ about Sithole’s announcement. Sithole is now trying to pass the buck by saying it is nothing to do with him.

Mbingo, went on to say Swaziland may ‘have been duped in this saga’.

The whole business of the E400m gets murkier. No one can even be sure that E400m is the sum involved: some reports put it at E300m and Sithole himself said it at one point it was E100m.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported earlier this month (1 June 2009) that Whelpton was to fly to German for talks with ‘the executive committee of a Foundation’ that would fund the project (described as worth E300m). True to form the foundation was not named.

Whelpton told the media that he was travelling to Germany on behalf of the King’s Office. As I have written before the King’s Office has a tendency to by-pass parliament and make deals in secret. Transparency is a word unknown to King Mswati (see for example, the controversy over the supposed 5 billion dollar power plant deal).

So just what is going on? If anyone has more information, please let me know (in strictest confidence).

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