The Swaziland Government has confirmed that it has not consulted with neighbouring Mozambique on a plan to build a US$3 billion port and canal linking that country’s coast to Swaziland.
And, Minister of Commerce Industry and Trade Gideon Dlamini said the project would be as successful as the US$250 million King Mswati III (KMIII) International Airport.
He meant this to highlight that the seaport would be a success, but the KMIII flies fewer than 150 passengers out of the kingdom on any given day.
Dlamini was interviewed by the Sunday Observer, a newspaper in Swaziland that is in effect owned by King Mswati, after the plan for the port received international scorn. When the government announced the plan in August 2015 it said a 26-km canal would link a proposed seaport at Mlawula in the Lubombo region with the Mozambique coast. However, it was soon pointed out that the distance to the coast was more than 70 km. Swaziland has no coastline of its own.
In his interview, Dlamini conceded that they had miscalculated the distance. He also told the newspaper that the Swazi Government had not consulted with Mozambique about digging a canal through its territory.
The seaport and canal in the landlocked kingdom has been criticised outside Swaziland as another vanity project for King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The KMIII Airport, formally known as Sikhuphe, was built on the instructions of the King, without benefit of a needs analysis. It has proved to be a disaster since it was formally opened in March 2014. Only one airline uses the airport, and that is partly owned by Swaziland.
No other commercial airline has publicly said it is interested in using the airport.
Dlamini in his interview with the Observer also said the new seaport would be superior to ports in both Maputo in Mozambique and Durban in South Africa. The initial announcement said the Swaziland port would be capable of handling four ships at a time.
Dlamini was reported by the Observer saying, ‘The problem with the Maputo and Durban ports is their shallowness. These two ports are not deep enough to handle heavy ships and we have received reports that there are ships that face difficulty docking in these ports because they are not deep enough,’ he said.
Dlamini added, ‘The proposal for our seaport shows that it will be very deep and this would enable bigger ships that cannot dock in both Maputo and Durban to come here. The seaport that we will have will be of first world status and will have better facilities compared to Maputo and Durban. The deeper the seaport the better and ours will be better than Maputo and Durban.’
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