9 April 2014

Swaziland: Public Banned From King's New Airport

The Swazi public have been banned from visiting the new King Mswati III Airport in Swaziland in case they wear out floor tiles in the passenger lounge.

The no-visitors directive has been issued by the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA). The airport, formerly known as Sikhuphe, was opened in March 2014, but no commercial flights have used it and none are planned.

The cost so far of the airport is E3 billion (US$300 million), much of the money came from the Swazi taxpayer.

King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, issued a directive that the airport should remain in sublime condition.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland and a critic of the building of the airport, reported SWACAA Director Solomon Dube saying the airport was not a museum or a mall. He also said visitors were banned for 'security reasons'.

The newspaper reported him saying, 'Everyone should cool down and stay away from the airport for now. This arrangement goes in line with the call from His Majesty the King, who said it should be kept in sublime condition.'

Dube said letting people into the facility could cause damage to some parts of the infrastructure, such as the ceramic tiles on the floor for the building.

'Ceramic tiles are expensive and their disproportionate use could damage them and it would cost us a lot of money to replace them. We also do not want the structure to age before passengers and airlines even use it,' he said.

The airport is under 24-hour guard by the Royal Swaziland Police who worked with private security firms to ensure that anxious visitors who were excited by the structure were kept out of the facility, the Times reported.

The airport, dubbed King Mswati's 'vanity project,' needs about 400,000 passengers a year to break even.

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