Sunday, May 15, 2011


Sabelo Dlamini, Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) Marketing and Corporate Affairs Director, is trying to talk up Sikhuphe International Airport again.

And not for the first time he is beginning to sound a bit desperate as he tries to convince the Swazi public, who are having to foot the estimated US$1 billion the airport is predicted to have cost by the time all the bills are in, that it has a viable future.

There was no needs analysis undertaken before building of the airport started and Sikhuphe is now internationally recognised as nothing more than a vanity project for King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

Dlamini has been in Cape Town trying to sell the idea of Sikhuphe as a tourism destination. He was interviewed by the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati.

The newspaper yesterday (14 May 2011) uncritically reported Dlamini’s assertion that interest is being shown by major airlines and tour operators across the world.

‘We have established possible routes which we want to market to the operators. Some of the proposed routes from Sikhuphe are Durban, Cape Town, Lanseria Airport in Sandton, Harare and Mozambique,’ the Observer reported Dlamini saying.

But, each of these airports is on Swaziland’s doorstep. If these new routes were needed and were commercially viable they could easily operate in and out of Swaziland’s existing airport at Matsapha. There is no need to waste US$1 billion building a new airport.

And, most of these airports have their own connections to major international cities so there’s no need for passengers to first fly to Sikhuphe and then take a connecting plane.

The Observer also reports Dlamini saying he met with ‘at least five big airline operators’. The newspaper only names three of them. They are, according to the paper:

Knysla Tour Operators- which actually doesn’t exist. Perhaps the newspaper meant ‘Knysna’ which is a town of about 76,000 people in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Why would you fly from Sikhuphe to the Western Cape? It’s easier to drive or take a bus. Knysna Tour Operators is described on the Internet as providing ‘custom tours and guided tours in the Knysna area and beyond’. No offence guys, but that doesn’t make you a ‘big airline operator’.

Timeless Ethiopia is the second outfit named by the Observer. It offers tours within Ethiopia, so won’t be sending anyone to Swaziland. I doubt that many people will want to travel from Sikhuphe to Ethiopia for a local tour with this company, so it won’t make a dent in that US$1 billion.

Satoa Tours is the third company. It specialises in tours of southern Africa and the Indian Ocean and already operates in Swaziland – which is just as well as it shares the address of the Swaziland High Commission at 20 Buckingham Gate, London, UK.

At some point Sabelo Dlamini and the Swazi Government have got to start telling us the truth about Sikhuphe. It’s a dead duck. Nobody wants it. It’s a waste of money.

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