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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

SWAZILAND PM IN LAND SALE SCANDAL

Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, his deputy, and four cabinet ministers are at the centre of a land purchase scandal.


Dlamini, who has claimed to be determined to stamp out corruption in the kingdom, was allowed to buy government-controlled land at half price, netting himself a E304,000 (43,000 US dollars) saving. Themba Masuku, the Deputy PM and four ministers each received discounts of between 30 and 50 percent on their purchases.


The politicians were allowed to purchase the so-called ‘crown land’ (which is ‘owned’ by the king) in the Swazi capital Mbabane without having to compete with other would-be buyers. They were given the land at below market value, in effect cheating the Swazi people out of the money.


Two of the ministers who took advantage of this scam are members of the Swazi Royal Family, which is headed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.


The ministers involved are Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Princess Tsandzile; Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Prince Hlangusemphi; Minister of Home Affairs, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze; and the Minister of Agriculture, Clement Dlamini.


The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reports that the Prime Minister made the biggest killing. He was allocated ‘a portion of land measuring 6,084 square metres. He paid E304,000 for the land after it was discounted from the initial price of E608,000. Effectively, he was granted a 50 percent discount’.


In total the land was sold at about E1 million less than it was worth, the Times estimates.


Former government ministers also benefited from the land purchase scandal. They include two members of the Swazi Royal Family. Prince David received a 50 percent discount on land worth E97,000 allocated to him. Prince Mbilini also received land, but the exact details of his windfall are not known, the Times reports.


It is believed that at least nine former ministers were given land at discounted prices.


Reacting to the scandal, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Lindiwe Dlamini, said she was entitled by the Crown Land Disposal Act of 1911 and the Vesting of Land in King’s Order of 1973to dispose of the land as she saw fit.


Such disposal may be through sale, lease or grant ‘or whatever manner’.


She said, ‘The minister is however empowered to deal with Crown Land in whatever manner she deems advisable without obtaining the King’s consent in an urban area.’


Or put another way: just as Swaziland enters economic meltdown and tens of thousands of government workers lose their jobs and poor people will become a little bit poorer, Lindiwe Dlamini has allowed the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues to exploit the Swazi people for their personal gain.

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