Swaziland: King's Empty Boasts On Prosperity

opinion

King Mswati is at it again, offering empty boasts that he has attracted foreign business people to invest in his kingdom on a large scale, with thousands of jobs on offer for his impoverished subjects.

The king, who is becoming a serial fantasist, returned to his kingdom this week from a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Taiwan claiming that he hadsecured Taiwanese investment to build a pharmaceutical plant, a food processing plant, a bottled water plant, a cosmetics plant and a granite and marble venture - which, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland newspaper, were expected to create more than 3 000 jobs.

The Times also reported that the king had secured investment of E100 million to pay for the project. That figure should have rang alarm bells with the media in Swaziland because E100 million is about US$10 million -- and you'd need to get a lot of bang for your bucks to build the five projects the king spoke about on that money.

It seems every time the king goes on a trip to the Middle East or Taiwan he comes back with tall tales of his achievements with businesspeople. The Swazi media, who surely would tell readers that he was wearing a fine set of clothes even when he was clearly buck-naked, faithfully report what he says.

But, it takes no more than five minutes searching through the news archives to demonstrate that King Mswati simply tells lies.

Here are some of the projects the king has promised in the past that have not materialised.

In October 2009, he came back from Qatar claiming he had secured US$4.8 billion to develop a 'world-class' facility that would store at least a three-month supply of fuel for Swaziland. Nothing happened.

In the same month he said there was about US$200 million available for a facelift for the Swazi capital city Mbabane. It would have a 'fully fledged state-of-the-art 21st Century Civic Centre befitting a country's capital city'. It would have the tallest building in the capital which would be able to host a number of activities such as national games, business meetings, music and arts festivals. Building was due to start in 2010 and take three years. Nothing happened.

For years the king has been banging on about the Sikhuphe international airport, but it is still under construction in the Swaziland wilderness. This was supposed to open in 2010 with major airlines fighting to land their planes. It has not opened. In October 2009, the king announced 'one of the world's leading airlines', the UAE-based Etihad Airways, would use the airport. No deal yet.

And, then there was 'Swazi City' with its 250 shops with four floors of luxurious shopping experience; Royal Villas which would offer up to six-star accommodation facilities suitable for all type of guests; a 28-floor hotel with 350 guest suites, world-class restaurants, three swimming areas and in-door sporting facilities, a health spa and a casino.

The king announced this plan in April 2009. He said the multi-million emalangeni cost (nobody seemed able to give a definite price) would be met by international finance. He said it would be completed in three years and bring 15,000 new jobs. It wasn't and it didn't.

In February 2010, King Mswati received a standing ovation at the opening of parliament when he announced that his government would spend about US$150 million over the next three years on houses for the nation. It didn't happen.

The king's fantasies date back at least 15 years when he was supposed to have teamed up with another fantasist, the pop singer Michael Jackson, to bring a 'Netherland-style' theme park to Swaziland. Media reports in 1998 said King Mswati personally met with Jackson at Disneyland in the US to get him on board. No Netherland has been built.

It surely speaks volumes about how much people in Swaziland fear the king, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, and who has a state-apparatus ready at his disposal to crush any dissent, however mild and no matter how justified, that no one will stand up and say, King Mswati has no clothes.

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