News that a company which has the Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini as a director has sold land it bought from the Swazi Government for E93,120 in 2005 to a public enterprise for E7.5 million will rekindle memories of another great land scam he was involved in.
The Times Sunday reported (10 May 2015) that Fusini Investments (Proprietary) Limited, directed by the Prime Minister and two others, bought land for E93,120 from government in 2005, which had now generated a profit of E7.4 million (US$740,000): a profit of more than 800 percent.
The PM’s company sold the land to the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF), a public organisation that was established in 1993 for the management and administration of pensions for government (public sector) employees.
Prime Minister Dlamini has a history of involvement in dodgy land deals. In 2011 he and others escaped scrutiny on land deals after the direct intervention of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch who rules Swaziland and who hand-picked Dlamini to be his Prime Minister.
They had bought Swazi nation land for themselves at what a select committee report later called ‘ridiculously cheap’ prices and ‘tantamount to theft of State property’.
In late December 2010 it was revealed that Dlamini, his deputy, and four cabinet ministers were at the centre of a land purchase scandal.
Dlamini, who had recently claimed to be determined to stamp out corruption in the kingdom, was allowed to buy government-controlled land at half price, netting himself a E304,000 (US$43,000) saving. Themba Masuku, the Deputy PM and four ministers each received discounts of between 30 and 50 percent on their purchases. None of these people were elected to the Swazi Parliament – all were appointed by the King.
The politicians were allowed to purchase the so-called ‘crown land’ (which is owned by the King on behalf of the Swazi nation) in the Swazi capital Mbabane without having to compete with other would-be buyers. They were given the land at below market value, in effect cheating the Swazi people out of the money.
Two of the ministers who took advantage of this scam were members of the Swazi Royal Family, which is headed by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The ministers involved were Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Princess Tsandzile; Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Prince Hlangusemphi; Minister of Home Affairs, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze; and the Minister of Agriculture, Clement Dlamini.
The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported at the time that the Prime Minister made the biggest killing. He was allocated ‘a portion of land measuring 6,084 square metres. He paid E304,000 for the land after it was discounted from the initial price of E608,000. Effectively, he was granted a 50 percent discount.’
In total the land was sold at about E1 million less than it was worth, the Times estimated.
Former government ministers also benefited from the land purchase scandal. They included two members of the Swazi Royal Family. Prince David received a 50 percent discount on land worth E97,000 allocated to him. Prince Mbilini also received land, but the exact details of his windfall were not known, the Times reported.
It was believed that at least nine former ministers were also given land at discounted prices.
It later emerged that the Swazi Cabinet, which was hand-picked by the King, approved the land purchase. This, in effect, meant they approved a plan that allowed themselves to save hundreds of thousands of emalengeni on the land scam.
It was later revealed that the Prime Minister and his cronies were not eligible for discounts on the land because such discounts were only available to poor people. In Swaziland seven in ten people have incomes of less than US$2 per day.
Prince Guduza, Speaker of the Swaziland House of Assembly, rebuked Barnabas Dlamini, the Prime Minister, for ‘interference of the highest order’, after the Swazi Parliament decided to set up a seven-member select committee to investigate the land deals and he called MPs in to see him ‘one-by-one’ to try to get them on his side.
The whole land deal scandal reached a climax in May 2011 when Dlamini took Prince Guduza, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, to court to stop a debate about the PM’s irregular land deals taking place.
He succeeded in getting a High Court order to stop parliament debating the land issue and publication of a select committee report into the affair. The House of Assembly ignored the court and debated anyway.
The select committee report described the conduct of Lindiwe Dlamini, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, in the deals as corrupt and treasonous.
The report stated that the authority for land deals was unconstitutionally taken away from the King’s Office, by Lindiwe Dlamini.
‘The act of the minister was not only unconstitutional but also seriously undermined the authority and sovereignty of the office of the Ingwenyama [the King] and was therefore treasonous,’ the report stated.
The report made more than 20 findings, including:
- That the Minister for Housing and Urban Development [Lindiwe Dlamini] acted unconstitutionally and with total disregard of the Crown Land Disposal regulations of 2003, which were promulgated in line with the provisions of the Crown Land Disposal Act of 1911
- That the cabinet ministers concerned used their positions to gain unfair advantage over other Swazis who had applied for the land many years ago, by-passing the Crown Land Disposal Committee in the process.
- The Prime Minister and the Minister for Natural Resources and Energy [Princess Tsandzile] bought the land at ridiculously low prices. The most disturbing aspect is that the Prime Minister was awarded the certificate to develop his portion and designs approved without having paid for the plot and records show that he only did so on February, 22 2011, long after the Select Committee was appointed.
- That the current administration has no respect for the constitution, as there are many laws that deal with land issues and until now they have not been aligned with the constitution.
- That the Attorney General was never consulted on this land deal.
- That the allocation of land to ministers through a cabinet decision was unlawful and it smacks of an element of personal aggrandisement since such action is not supported by any legal instrument. Receiving a housing allowance on the one hand and on the other hand apportioning crown land to oneself, is tantamount to theft of State property.
- That, as a custodian of State assets and property, by virtue of its position in government, cabinet had no legal right to take a collective decision on the allocation of land to ministers, even worse, that in the process it violated the Constitution, 2005.
In June 2011, King Mswati confirmed his status as an absolute monarch when he ordered the House of Assembly and the Senate to stop discussing the land scandal. He said he would decide what would happen to the land.
The King’s decision to intervene was kept private and the media were excluded from a joint meeting of the House of Assembly and Senate at which the King’s dictate was given.
Dlamini then instructed the media in Swaziland to stop discussing the land deal. He said, ‘His Majesty said the issue should be put to rest. It means the matter has been concluded because the King’s word is a command and the law. I take it that it is over and I hope journalists will take it as having been concluded.
There is no need for journalists to keep bringing this matter up and spicing it. It has to be taken out of the news,’
Parliament was informed by both its presiding officers (Speaker Prince Guduza and Senate President Gelane Zwane) that the King had ordered the PM to withdraw his court action regarding the land issue and that the land in question would be returned to government ownership.
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