Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Just when I thought we’d heard the last of King Mswati III’s plan to have two thermal power plants to generate electricity built in Swaziland, the project rears its ugly head again.

Last year (2009), I wrote at length about how King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had bypassed his government and secretly negotiated for two power plants worth 5 billion US dollars (E36.5 billion at current exchange rates) to be built in his kingdom.

He said the money was in place and everything was ready to go. People in Swaziland were sceptical and some smelt a fraud was about to take place.

Then, quietly, the plan was shelved and we heard no more about what happened to the money.

Reuters news agency put out a report in October 2009 saying that the plan might have been dropped because it was too ambitious and would have produced much more electricity than Swaziland needed.

Now we hear of a revised plan for two smaller power plants worth up to E7 billion (960 million US dollars) to be built by the end of the year.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reports that the Swaziland Public Enterprises Unit (PEU) says that Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC) will oversee the project.

This time however there is no claim that King Mswati (or anyone else for that matter) has secured the funding.

To put the E7 billion into context – it is E1 billion more than the total amount that Swaziland received from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) last year – and the SACU money accounted for two thirds of Swaziland’s annual budget.

The completion date of the end of December 2010 is unrealistic and in the present economic climate I can’t see anyone putting up the money – especially since no one has explained what happened to the 5 billion US dollars King Mswati assured his subjects he had secured for the power plants last year.

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