Thursday, October 8, 2009


I’m pleased to see I’m not the only one who doubts the sense in building the Sikhuphe international airport.

I’ve written before how this folly of King Mswati III was unnecessary and how no objective assessment of the airport needs of Swaziland was undertaken before building went ahead.

I called it a vanity project of King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Swaziland MPs haven’t been as critical as me but they have expressed doubts that Sikhuphe will bring in any money for the kingdom.

MPs put Director of Civil Aviation Douglas Litchfield on the spot at a meeting last month (September 2009).

Even the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, is beginning to have its doubts. It reported that MP Nicodemus ‘Ace’ Mashwama asked Litchfield to provide the evidence the Swaziland Government had that major airlines would use the airport once it opened.

‘What are the tangible indicators that there is a market for Sikhuphe?’ he asked.Litchfield said some airlines such as Singapore had told him they might fly into the airport.I’m not quite sure what this means. Did some airline executive say over a bottle of beer that the airline might be interested, or is there some formal trade agreement somewhere?

It’s difficult to see why airlines would fly into Sikhuphe as there are already plenty of major airports in nearby South Africa for them to use. There’s no evidence that more people would come to Swaziland if the new airport were to open.

Sikhuphe is stuck in the middle of nowhere with (at present) no road access. The present Matsapha airport has good road links to Swaziland’s two main cities, Mbabane and Manzini, but it can’t attract much air traffic.

As I reported in August 2009, Sikhuphe will cost E1.5 billion (200 million US dollars) to complete. That works out at about E1,500 for each man, woman and child in Swaziland. When you consider 70 per cent of Swazis earn less than E8 a day that’s a big sacrifice for King Mswati to ask of his subjects for his own vanity.

No comments: