Saturday, August 29, 2009


Here we go again; the Swazi Government is considering buying an airplane for King Mswati III.

Parliamentarians are saying the plane will be for the ‘nation’, but as we know in Swaziland the king holds everything ‘in trust’ for the nation, so in effect it will be his to do with as he pleases.

The idea was aired at a sitting of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport portfolio committee on Thursday (27 August 2009).

The minister Ntuthuko Dlamini told the committee, ‘Let us consider buying our own aircraft.’ The committee was discussing various concerns over the perceived inadequacies of airline travel to and from Swaziland.

Swaziland still hasn’t recovered from the last aborted attempt to buy a jet for King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In 2002 the then Swazi Government secretly and illegally entered into a contract to buy a private jet for the king. When news leaked out and the outcry travelled around the world, the government was forced to abandon the contract and lost a E28m (3.6 million US dollars at current exchange rates) deposit.

In February 2009 Finance Minister Majozi Sithole promised that the deposit for the jet was to be returned to Swaziland with interest. As far as I know this hasn’t happened, and personally I’m not holding my breath that it ever will.

News that the Swaziland Government is even discussing the possibility of buying a jet plane will cause dismay throughout the world.

The king wastes money all time while 70 percent of his subjects live in abject poverty.

King Mswati has been under heavy criticism this past month after news leaked in the international media (but was suppressed in Swaziland) that five of the king’s 13 wives had been on a global shopping spree, spending at least six million dollars.

In April 2009 he bought 20 top-of –the-range armoured Mercedes cars
at an estimated cost of 250,000 dollars each. Last year he spent about 10 million dollars on a 40/40 celebration to mark his own birthday and the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence from Britain and a further four million dollars sending eight of his wives on a shopping trip to Dubai.

The fact that the Swazi Government may entertain the purchase of the plane is evidence of how out of touch with reality its members are. Swaziland is bracing itself for a reduction of at least a half in Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) receipts this year which will result in vicious cuts in public spending in a kingdom that already has threadbare health and education services.

The Swazi Government needs to make a clear statement confirming that the idea to buy the plane was just a bit of kite flying and no such purchase will in fact be made.

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