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Friday, 26 November 2010

SINISTER FORCES AND JOZINI PROJECT

Meanwhile back at the Jozini Big Six project ...


Acres of newspaper space is being given over to the comings and goings in Lavumisa, where King Mswati III, Swaziland’s ruler and sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has seized (sorry, cancelled the contract on) the E3 billion (425 million US dollars) project for a massive tourism development in one of the kingdom’s poorest regions.


As is typical of the Swazi media most of the coverage has been in the minute detail – word for word what the original contract said, and so on. What is mostly absent is any analysis of why the king seemingly stole the project and what this will mean for the future of foreign investment in Swaziland.


But there was one good article of analysis this week – in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.


Needless to say, the article wasn’t written by a journalist, but by an anonymous ‘guest writer.’


It was an examination of how nothing had changed in Swaziland since the new constitution of 2005 And a small part was devoted to Jozini.


The writer wondered what influence the labadzala, whom I would define as the ‘faceless’ elders in Swaziland who seem to control everything for their own benefit and without recourse to law and definitely not the constitution.


Here is what he / she said about Jozini, ‘This is where once again we see that the authorities of this land are acting in a high handed and seemingly arbitrary manner. This is one of the biggest Foreign Direct Investment schemes that the country has attracted in many, many years and has the potential to be a long term earner in high spending tourist revenues. Most tourists only stay in Swaziland for one or two days and rarely leave the Mbabane—Ezulwini—Manzini corridor. It was also a pilot model of proper investment where the investors were given a 99 year land lease, and they developed strong social and economic ties with the Lavumisa community, providing employment and development in the most forgotten and deprived area of our country.


‘This project had the potential to increase and diversify the tourist product for the whole of the nation. The investors have now been told they have breached the terms of the lease and must leave. They have not been properly served with legal papers, they have not been properly told what the breach is and the government got the Attorney General himself to serve the papers.


‘Jim Brown, the Director of Jozini, believes he will win in court—I wish him good luck with that one. In each case that government fought in the last session of the Supreme Court government won. Just like it always did before the new constitution. But Brown, just like the South African farmers in Zimbabwe will have recourse to the South African Courts and will be able to get a judgment against the South African and Swazi governments for not protecting investments.


‘I also would like to know who is going to benefit from this project being killed off? It is definitely not the investors and it is not the people of the area. So do the labadzala have a partner lined up? They say they do not, but I would not be surprised if someone from the Middle East does not offer to capitalise the project in return for complete control.


The country will not see a cent and the people of Lavumisa will return to their previous condition of abject and continuing poverty.


‘The Jozini debacle has the potential to really bring our country to its knees. It actually reminds me of one project in which Sappi Usutu tried to empower its workers through their union. It was outsourcing one of its operations to Sapwu Branch at Sappi, but because the Union involved one Jan Sithole, labadzala would not hear any of that. I told them then that they were sending a wrong message to the foreign investor, both here and abroad. What foreign investor would seriously think of investing here if there are no legal rights or redresses open to it?’


To read the full article click here.

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