Swaziland lawmakers have been told that the King's jet will cost the impoverished kingdom US$12.6 million. In the national budget in February 2016, E96 million (about US$7.3 million) had been set aside for the jet.
There is some confusion about the true cost of the plane. A report in the Swazi Observer newspaper on 15 March 2017 said Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation 'was given E296 million, during the current financial year, to buy the state jet and E96 million was used to pay deposit for the airplane'.
The jet is a 15-year-old Airbus A340 owned by China Airlines in Taiwan and after refurbishments it is expected to accommodate about 60 to 90 people.
Politicians and the media in Swaziland consistently say the Airbus is being purchased as a 'state jet', but it has now been confirmed it will be for the sole use of King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze told a parliamentary workshop on Thursday (20 April 2017) government had committed itself to pay the equivalent of E166 million (US$12.65 million).
According to The Swazi Observer (21 April 2017), a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Gamedze revealed the government had agreed to pay for the jet in two equal instalments and one had already been paid. The plane is expected to arrive in Swaziland early in 2018.
The King already has a smaller McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 jet plane.
The Observer reported that Gamedze told the workshop the plane could only be used by heads of state, 'not just anyone'.
He said it was possible that the jet might be hired out to other users. The newspaper reported him saying, 'It is true that we need money as a country. But we cannot give this plane to just anyone .We know that many people can afford to hire it, but the plane will only be given to someone who occupies a status that is similar to that of the King.'
King Mswati rules over a population of 1.3 million people. Seven in ten live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day. The King lives a lavish lifestyle with 13 palaces, a private jet, fleets of top-of-the range Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls-Royce.
In April 2016, Members of the Swaziland Parliament blocked the move to allocate money for the jet. Once news of the intended spending was made public outside of Swaziland the King came in for heavy criticism. Swaziland was in the grip of a drought crisis and in February the Swazi Government declared a national emergency and said the kingdom would need E248 million (US$16 million) before the end of April 2016.
Within days, the MPs overturned their earlier decision. Unconfirmed reports circulating on the Internet said that King Mswati had refused to sign-off Swaziland's budget unless he got his jet.