Claims by King Mswati III of Swaziland that his newly-acquired private jet was a present from ‘development partners’ has been met with disbelief.
Barnabas Dlamini, the man the King personally appointed Prime Minister, said on government-controlled radio that the King had been given a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twin-engine jet as a birthday gift, ‘from development partners and friends of the king, to be used by their majesties for travels abroad’.
No cost for the plane was given but for comparison a 1966 version of the aircraft is being offered for sale on the Internet at US$592,000.
King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and he rules over a kingdom were seven in ten people earn less than US2 a day. Forbes estimated he is the 15th richest monarch in the world and in 2009 said he had a personal net fortune of US$200 million.
The news of the King’s jet was received with disbelief.
Ntombenhle Khathwane of the Swaziland Diaspora Platform, a human rights group based in South Africa, told the SAPA news agency, ‘No development partner would want to be anonymous, by their nature development agencies are transparent. We demand the release of full details of the donor and the value of the jet.’
Zakhele Mabuza, spokesperson for the banned People’s United Democratic Movement, accused Mswati of using taxpayer money for the jet. He said, ‘He was secretly using it and only now do they feel bold enough to admit it. We have long said that this monarchy is a huge drain to the economy.’
The Swaziland Solidarity Network, in a statement said, ‘What the Prime Minister hopes to con the world into believing is that a development partner, be it a state, corporation or individual, remarkably overlooked all the basic developmental needs that the country currently faces, from civil servants’ salaries to rural housing and health, and decided to buy flying metal [for] one of the richest men in Africa.’
Swaziland is in an economic crisis and its government cannot pay its bills. Earlier this month the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it would not support the Swazi Government’s economic recovery plan as it was unworkable. This decision could plunge the kingdom into a financial meltdown as it restricts Swaziland’s ability to raise loans from the World bank and the African Development Bank.
KING’S PLANE HIRE COST $3.5 MILLION