Saturday, November 21, 2009


I see we are being buttered up with excuses about why King Mswati III’s great fantasy - Sikhuphe International Airport - won’t be finished on time.

Readers playing the Fantasy Watch game with me will know that airport is expected to be completed and ready to receive its first flight in March next year (2010).

Now we are told this deadline is ‘unrealistic’ and was only set so that the airport could be used to transport passengers for the FIFA World Cup being played in South Africa next year.

The airport, a vanity project for King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is nowhere near finished and the Swaziland Government is still trying to find E1.5 billion (about 200 million US dollars) to complete it (this works out at about E1,500 for each man, woman and child in Swaziland, in a kingdom where 70 percent earn less than one dollar a day).

This week Swaziland Senator Moi Moi Masilela started on the excuses.

He said the target of 2010 was unrealistic.As a result of the pressure we will end up building an airport that is not up to standard, something that would result in the tarmac collapsing when flights land.’

He told the Minister of Economic Planning and Development Prince Hlangusemphi during a Senate Portfolio Committee debate, Let’s not rush the airport in the name of meeting deadlines but we should take our time to avoid having a structure that’s of poor standards.’

There are also doubts that the new airport will meet standards demanded by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). If the ICAO doesn’t license the airport, planes will not be able to use it.

Senator Masilela needs to be careful. It was King Mswati himself who only last month announced that the airport would be ready in March 2010. The king told an audience in Kuwait, ‘The completion of Sikhuphe International Airport in March 2010 will further improve our [Swaziland’s] standing.’

Whoops. Of course, the airport was never (is never, will never) going to be completed in 2010 and since no organisation is prepared to fund the airport’s completion it’s a fair bet it never will be finished.

As I said before, the whole Sikhuphe International Airport is just a sad fantasy of King Mswati and the people around him who are too self-interested to tell the king he is wrong.

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