King Mswati III’s share of the just-reopened Lufafa Gold Mine at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region of Swaziland could be worth up to US$149 million.
The King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Sharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, holds 25 percent of the mine ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’. He holds a quarter of all Swaziland’s mineral wealth ‘in trust’ but in reality he uses the money to fund the lavish lifestyle of himself and his vast Royal Family.
The Swazi News on Saturday (27 February 2016) reported, ‘The mine is reported to have more than two million tonnes of gold ore that contains the gold while the actual gold that may be recovered is estimated at about 15,000 kilograms.’
It added, ‘Lufafa Mine PTY Ltd is composed of three shareholders. The shareholders are Ingwenyama [King Mswati] in trust for the Swazi nation, government of Swaziland and SDZ Mine PTY Ltd. The life of the mine is 25 years with an option of renewal for a further 15 years.’
What it did not report was that at present prices gold can fetch between US$16,501 and $39,572 a kilo depending on the gold’s quality. This would make King Mswati’s 25 percent share worth between US$61,879,000 and US$148,395,000.
Media were invited to the reopening ceremony on Friday but were banned from taking photographs. The Nation, an independent monthly magazine, reported on its Facebook site, ‘journalists were prevented from taking pictures creating suspicion about the extraction of the mineral in the country. Security forces and Minister of Natural Resources, Jabulile Mashwama, ordered journalists not to take pictures at the mining site without giving any reasons.’
It added, ‘Sources told The Nation that the directors of [the mining company] did not want pictures of the mine to be published “for security reasons”. Journalists were only allowed to photograph the event at the entrance of the mine, where a tent was pitched for King Mswati to meet the local community, and at the reception held at Pigg’s Peak.’
King Mswati has 13 palaces, a private jet aircraft, fleets of BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars and a Rolls Royce. He and his family live in splendour and take many expensive foreign holidays.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of the King’s 1.4 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.
Last month (February 2016), the Government handpicked by the King announced a national drought emergency but said it did not have enough money to cope with the situation. It asked for E143 million (about US$9 million) in aid from the international donor community.