Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The American Embassy in Swaziland has accused King Mswati III of interfering in the sale of shares of cellphone company MTN – so he could buy them himself at a cheaper rate.

The King, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, caused the ousting of Tebogo Mogapi, the MTN chief executive officer (CEO) in Swaziland, the embassy says.

Wikileaks has released a cable from the American Embassy in Swaziland to the State Department in Washington dated 9 October 2009. The cable marked ‘sensitive’ also claims that Mogapi did not have his work permit renewed (thereby meaning he had to give up his job and leave the kingdom) because he opposed the Swaziland Government’s ‘efforts to use the MTN network for surveillance on political dissidents’.

The cable written by the then US Ambassador to Swaziland, Earl Irvine, says, ‘Royal politics and King Mswati's business interests appear to have caused the ouster of Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) CEO Tebogo Mogapi and halted parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) from selling the MTN shares it owns to raise money for a Next Generation Networks (NGN)cell phone project.

‘Industry and press observers privately indicated that the king, who already owns many MTN shares, had wanted to purchase the MTN shares himself at a cheaper price than the buyer, MTN, was offering SPTC.

‘Government officials later prevented the sale, and recently did not renew the work permit for CEO Mogapi, a South African citizen, apparently in retaliation for his role in the transaction, as well as the CEO's reported decision to oppose government efforts to use the MTN network for electronic surveillance on political dissidents.’

The cable goes on, ‘The government's halt of parastatal SPTC's sale of MTN shares demonstrates the impact the king's and other influential individuals' private business interests can have on business transactions in Swaziland.

‘Government officials would likely prefer a more malleable Swazi CEO at MTN who would cooperate more fully with royal and government wishes.’

To read the full cable click here.

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