Wednesday, April 26, 2017


As confusion reigns over the true cost on King Mswati III second private jet, confidential figures suggest his present plane may have cost Swaziland at least US$15 million to operate since he received it in 2012.

The modified McDonnel Douglas DC-9-87 jet, also known as an MD-87, cost US$9.5 million in 2012 and at least another US$4.1 million was spent on refurbishments before the King took delivery.

In 2012, the King’s company Inchatsavane signed an aircraft management operating agreement with Greek-based Gain Jet Aviation. As part of the deal the King was required to deposit US$500,000, described as ‘average two months operating costs’ to guarantee future payments. On this basis the operating costs of the aircraft would be US$250,000 per month or US$3 million per year. In the five years since the jet has been flying, the operating costs would have reached US$15 million.

The figure set by Gain Jet Aviation was only an estimate. Another estimate of costs of operating an MD-87 is available from Conklin and de Decker, Aviation Information. 

It has set the total fixed cost of the MD-87 at US$1,124,525 for a year. This works out at US$93,710 per month. 

Fixed costs are the costs that have to be paid even if the plane never flies. Among the fixed costs it lists are salaries for the pilot, the co-pilot and the flight attendant.

Conklin and de Decker set the variable costs at US$9,736.20 per hour. 

Variable costs include fuel, maintenance, landing charges at airports, staff expenses and catering.

The US$250,000 per month or US$9,736.20 per hour anticipated for operating costs might be underestimates for the true cost of flying King Mswati’s jet.

Gain Jet Aviation invoiced the Swaziland Ministry of Foreign Affairs US$312,500 for a flight in June 2012 from Tokyo (Japan), to Manzini (Swaziland). The flight was spread over two days and included fuel stops in Danang (Vietnam), Male (Maldives), and Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania). The total flying time for the journey was 20 hours 50 minutes.

The company billed for a total of US$312,500, which works out at about US$14,880 per hour.

In August 2014, Gain Jet Aviation invoiced for a trip that was going to take place the following month over 14 days from Swaziland – Tanzania – Maldives – Malaysia – India – Egypt – Nice (France) – Cameroon – Swaziland. The total estimated number of flying hours was 39 hours 35 minutes.

The invoice total was for US$593,750.00, which works out at about US$14,843 per hour.

It would be impossible to get figures for the true full cost of operating King Mswati’s private jet. The King rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and he picks the Prime Minister, the Government and the kingdom’s judges.

People who question his authority or advocate for multi-party democracy are jailed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and / or the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act.  

The US$15 million estimated to have been spent on the King’s jet since 2012 is about E197 million in the kingdom’s local currency.  As a comparison, in the national budget announced in February 2017, E110 million was set aside for the impoverished kingdom’s entire Regional Development Fund.

King Mswati is set to take delivery of a 15-year-old Airbus A340 early in 2018. Media reports in Swaziland of its cost have varied from US$12.6 million to US$22.5 million.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017


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.

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Monday, April 24, 2017


King Mswati III, who rules as an absolute monarch over the destitute kingdom of Swaziland, appears to have a God delusion.

The King and his family say they have a direct-line to God. In 2013, King Mswati’s elder brother, Prince Masitsela Dlamini, told African Eye News Service that God had given the royal family authority to rule over other Swazi clans. ‘The Dlaminis are closer to God,’ said Dlamini.

In 2011, the King said God spoke to him through a TV remote control. It happened at the Lozitha Palace, near Mbabane. At the time the King told his subjects about his ‘miraculous experience’.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported in October 2011, ‘His Majesty saw a miracle yesterday when he was preparing a sermon [to preach to a group of evangelical Christians.] The King said a remote control lay at the centre of a coffee table but something mysteriously brought it down.

‘He said there was no person or wind that could have brought it down.  The King said he realised that God was with him.  It was Him who brought the remote control down.’

Reverend Jonas Dlamini, one of the king’s preachers, said, ‘The King preached to us. He was filled with the light of the Lord when he told us that God had given him a sign when he was getting ready to meet us.  He said a TV remote on his table dropped to the floor with no one touching it and that is how he knew God was communicating with him.’

In September 2013, the King himself told his subjects he had received a vision during a thunderstorm and was told that the political system in Swaziland that puts the King at the head and bans political parties should from then on be called ‘Monarchical Democracy.’

It helps the King and his supporters if people think King Mswati is chosen by God. It suggests the King has special abilities and wisdom. For that reason, his word must be obeyed. Those who speak against the King, speak also against God and who can dare criticise God?

Of course, King Mswati wasn’t chosen by God. A political group plotting within the ruling elite of Swaziland chose him. 

The Nation, a monthly magazine of comment in Swaziland, in July 2008 reported extensively about a documentary called Without The King that revealed how the present King came to the throne – and the manoeuvrings were positively Shakespearian. 

Unlike in many societies that still have monarchs, in Swaziland the eldest son doesn’t simply become king once the reigning monarch dies. The king is chosen ‘by virtue of the rank and character of his mother in accordance with Swazi law and custom’. But the part of Swazi law and custom relating to the selection of a successor to a king is unknown to a majority of ordinary Swazi. It may include the mother to the heir.

The Nation reported, ‘In the documentary, King Mswati III shed some light on how he got to know that he would be the next King of Swaziland.

‘He said then he was about 12½ years of age and it was after the demise of his father, King Sobhuza II when the news were broke to him.

‘King Mswati III did not say anything about his mother who was then an ordinary wife to the late king. It was not until the then Supreme Council (Liqoqo) removed the then Queen Regent for the biological mother to the then Crown Prince that she was appointed to office.

‘The act drew reprisals for the Liqoqo members who ousted the then Queen Regent.

‘After the King was crowned, the Liqoqo members were charged with high treason arising from their decision to remove the Queen Regent Dzeliwe. Some were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment terms as high as 15 years.

‘The King subsequently pardoned them.’

One biography of King Mswati  says the story of how King Mswati, who was known as Prince Makhosetive as a child, became the monarch goes like this. 

‘King Sobhuza II had deftly managed to hold rivalling power factions within the royal ruling alliance in check, and so his death in August 1982, left a power vacuum.’

At this time Makhosetive was 15 years old and a schoolboy at Sherborne in England.

‘In keeping with tradition, Makhosetive’s appointment by his father was not publicly announced. Before his death the King had chosen one of his queens, the childless Princess Dzeliwe, to preside over the monarchy as regent until the prince turned 21 years of age. 

‘It was in keeping with tradition that she be childless, so that she would not involve herself in a factional struggle to advance the position of her own son. Factional quarrels broke out into the open, however, in the interregnum period, while the prince was [at school] in the United Kingdom. 

‘Continuing disputes led members of the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body, to force the Queen Regent to resign. In her stead the Liqoqo appointed Queen Ntombi, Prince Makhosetive’s mother, who initially refused to take up the position.

Further disputes between royal factions led to his coronation as King Mswati III, at the age of 18, in April 1986, three years earlier than expected.

At the time, the King was the youngest monarch in the world. 

‘Observers saw the early coronation as an attempt on the part of the Liqoqo to legitimate the usurpation of Dzeliwe and consolidate their gains in power. Prince Makhosetive, now King Mswati III, acted quickly however to disband the Liqoqo and call for parliamentary elections.

In May 1986 Mswati dismissed the Liqoqo, the traditional advisory council to regents, which had assumed greater powers than were customary. In July 1986 he dismissed and charged with treason Prime Minister Prince Bhekimpi and several government officials for their role in the ejection of Queen Regent Dzeliwe, though he eventually pardoned those who were convicted.

Another biography of King Mswati says, ‘King Mswati’s first two years of rule were characterized by a continuing struggle to gain control of the government and consolidate his rule.

‘Immediately following his coronation, Mswati disbanded the Liqoqo and revised his cabinet appointments. In October 1986 Prime Minister Bhekimpi Dlamini was dismissed and for the first time a nonroyal, Sotsha Dlamini, was chosen for the post.

‘Prince Bhekimpi and 11 other important Swazi figures were arrested in June 1987. [Prince] Mfanasibili, [Prince] Bhekimpi, and eight others were convicted of high treason. Eight of those convicted, however, were eventually pardoned.

In 2011, court papers relating to the treason trial that was held in secret come to light after 23 years. The papers that had been deliberately removed from Swaziland after the trial in 1987 were unearthed in Namibia. 

They have not been released to the public and might contain details about the plotting that surrounded King Mswati’s rise to power. The papers might also remind the King’s subjects that he is really only where he is today because of political intrigue.

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