The High Court in Swaziland has ordered the forced eviction of more residents from their stick-and-mud homes to make way for the building of a technology park, dubbed a ‘vanity project’ for King Mswati III.
The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, wants to build a Royal Science and Innovation Park/ Biotechnology Park at Nokwane.
The High Court in Mbabane ordered the eviction of 20 people from their homes. There were also forced evictions from Nokwane in September 2014 after residents failed to stop a court order.
In the latest move, residents failed to convince the High Court that they had any legal right to be on the land.
Judge Mpendulo Simelane said the ownership of the property was vested in the King in trust for the Swazi Nation and the King had allocated the land to government through the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology for the construction of the Park.
He also ordered the demolition of ‘all and every illegal structure erected’ on this farm.
The clearance is 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.
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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