7 March 2016

Swaziland: Money for King's Jet, but Not Drought

Only weeks after it was announced Swaziland would seek E143 million (US$9 million) from the international community because it could not pay for drought relief, the Swazi Finance Minister announced the Government would buy the kingdom's autocratic monarch King Mswati III a jet plane costing at least E96 million.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported the money was set aside as part of the annual budget announced by the Swazi Finance Minister Martin Dlamini on Friday (4 March 2016).

About 300,000 of the kingdom's 1.4 million population are reportedly facing a food crisis caused by the drought presently crippling Swaziland. Rural people are in danger of severe malnutrition and it has been reported that there is only enough water to supply the Swazi capital Mbabane for between one and three weeks.

On 18 February 2016, Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini declared a state of emergency and said Swaziland would need E248 million over the coming two months for drought relief.

EU Ambassador to Swaziland Nicola Bellomo said the kingdom immediately would seek E143 million from the 'donor community' to help Swaziland meet its needs.

The Observer reported the E96 million was set aside for a jet for the King after members of the parliament, many of them appointed by the King, urged the Swazi Government to consider buying the King a plane to replace the DC-9 jet (also known as an MD-87) which he already has. It has been the subject of legal disputes in both Canada and the British Virgin Islands.

Earlier this month (March 2016), it was reported that King Mswati's share of the just-reopened Lufafa Gold Mine at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region of Swaziland could be worth up to US$149 million.


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