Homes have been demolished against residents’ wishes to make way for another of King Mswati III’s ‘vanity projects’.
The King wants to build a Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park at Nokwane.
Residents of ten homesteads tried to get a court order to stop their homes being demolished but were told by the Attorney-General the courts were powerless and only the King himself could stop the destruction.
King Mswati rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The homesteads, which were mostly stick-and-mud houses, were bulldozed on Thursday (25 September 2014). Local media reported that residents were traumatised when about 20 armed police officers forced them out and at least three residents needed hospital treatment. Some people had lived at Nokwane for at least 20 years, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported.
The newspaper reported, ‘The [police] officers, who were armed with pistols, rifles and batons moved from one homestead to another as the sheriff informed the residents of the demolitions which were to be effected in a matter of time.’
The clearance was to make way for the building of a Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park. When the project was first announced in 2010 it was criticised by observers as another ‘vanity project’ for the King. It runs alongside the Sikhuphe International Airport (now renamed King Mswati III Airport) which was officially opened in March 2014 after costing at least E3 billion (US$300 million) to build. No commercial airlines have used the airport, but Swaziland Airlink, a company controlled by the Swazi Government, has been forced to abandon using Matsapha Airport and will move to Sikhuphe in October 2014.
In 2010, Moses Zungu, the Project Manager for the Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park, said the first phase of the project, which would involve basic infrastructure such as roads, drainage, landscaping and other works, would cost E850 million (US$85 million). He said the first phase would start in April 2011 – more than three years ago.
No needs analysis for the development has been published, but Zungu said in 2010 the science park was the initiative of the King.
In July 2011 it was revealed that the Swazi Government had taken out a US$20 million loan to part-finance the science park. The loan, in the form of a line of credit, was from the Export-Import Bank of India.
More than seven in ten of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day. The kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world and earlier this year the Swazi Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane said there was not enough money to pay for drugs to prevent the death of children from diarrhoea in the kingdom.
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