11 June 2012

Swaziland: King's Failed Promise Costs Prof $2 Million

After a plan for a health centre in Swaziland, backed by King Mswati III, failed to materialise, a court has ordered that two South African doctors should receive US$1.2 million (R10 million) each in compensation after a contract they signed fell through.

King Mswati had promised them that R3.2 billion in donor funds would be available to build a health centre, but the money did not come. Prince Mangaliso Dlamini was project manager of the scheme.

Frans Whelpton, a professor at the University of South Africa (UNISA), convinced two medical doctors Reynhardt van Rooyen and Johannes Kok to be involved in the project.

The Pretoria News reported that the two gave up their medical practices in 2003 to devote themselves to the scheme.

Pretoria High Court was told that Whelpton told Kok about the project when he went to him for a medical check-up. He told Kok that Swaziland planned on developing the health care project and that he had been appointed to handle the implementation.

King Mswati III and his family were at that stage patients of Van Rooyen. As Whelpton knew this, he said it would be a good idea for the two doctors to become involved in the project.

The Pretoria News reported that the doctors and Whelpton met on various occasions and the professor presented the doctors with various letters, including one signed by Prince Dlamini in his capacity of project manager of the programme. This was to prove that the programme was a reality.

The doctors said they were also told that an amount of R3.2 billion was made available to Swaziland for this from certain donors funds and that this money would be deposited in Swaziland's central bank. This was due to happen as soon as Swaziland's new constitution was accepted by the Swaziland parliament.

The doctors said Whelpton told them that for their help in the planning and development of the programme, they would receive three percent of the amount, which worked out at R160m over a three-year period.

The doctors said the king assured them the new constitution would be accepted by March 2004, where after the donor funds would be made available.

The doctors started to wind down their medical practices in January 2004, although none of the donor funds had been paid and Swazi constitution had not been approved by parliament.

The Pretoria News reported Whelpton wanted to ensure that the doctors did not suffer financial loss while winding down their practices and suggested that he would loan each R10m. He, however, did not have the money available at the time and planned to pay them from money he was due to receive for work which he had done for the Swazi Government.

Whelpton was due to receive millions from the UN for research he had undertaken regarding the Swazi common law.

A written loan agreement was signed between the parties on January 22, 2004, in which Whelpton undertook to loan the doctors R10m each. Whelpton was not able to pay them, as he was waiting to be paid by the Swazi Government.

Judge JW Louw said it was clear that there was a binding contract between the parties and that the doctors were entitled to the amount promised to them by Whelpton in terms of the loan agreement.

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